A. P McCoy’s final two months as a professional jump jockey will be an uncomfortable period for someone who still shuns the limelight after a career of unparalleled success. He wanted to announce his retirement on his own terms and go out at the top of the sport that defines him – going out as champion jockey for the 20th time ought to be a fitting end to an astonishing career.
There are captivating numbers, unforgettable individual events, but essentially there is a dogged, driven competitor who grimaced his way through season after season for twenty years emerging each time as Champion jockey.
McCoy will be remembered by history as a ferocious athlete who nurtured his natural talent with a peerless determination. His hard work helped him to success that will likely never be matched in the field of jump racing. When he hangs up his boots he will be missed by his legions of fans the length and breadth of Britain, both for his winners and for his inimitable drive to win.
His staying power, in a sport almost unmatched for its brutal and bruising nature, are the signs of freakish luck combined with a rare obdurateness. Like any jockey, McCoy has had his fair share of trips to the treatment room, sustaining injuries with frequency to almost every part of his body.
Each time a jockey saddles up for a race they are aware that they could incur an injury of a career-ending, even life-changing magnitude. McCoy looked these odds in the face and, with a grim stare, continued to ride winners.
McCoy though was never interested in shirking the pain and the risks associated with his sport, even when it threatened his marriage – his wife threatened to leave him if he tried for the unthinkable milestone of 5,000 winners.
He has never been one to sit and admire his achievements, stating, surprisingly, after his 4,000th winner at Towcester in November 2013, that he was “proud for the first time”.
Until now he has always been a man to look forward to the next horse, the next meet, but when McCoy finally allows himself an opportunity to reflect, he will find two decades strewn with memorable moments.
Twice he has come home on horses that moved to 999-1 on Betfair, including remarkably after he remounted Family Business after being unseated to win by a distance.
A jockey who won almost all the major races in horse racing, he will look back perhaps most fondly on his Grand National win in 2010 aboard Don’t Push It.
For a time it seemed that his efforts to win this famous race were doomed, being outdone by almost any means imaginable.
Winning in 2010 though was a victory of great relief for McCoy, and when the preeminent jockey of his generation starts his last National, it is expected that he may set off with the shortest odds in living memory.
The clamour to catch a glimpse of this singular athlete is a surprise for someone who studiously ignores his own stature in order to keep coming back for more. So modest is the veteran that he describes the frenzy post-announcement as “not the ideal scenario”; the limelight is not where he seeks to position himself.
For someone who has achieved feats which will almost certainly never be eclipsed, he deserves every single ovation he will surely receive between now and the final ride of an implausibly illustrious career.