The Tony McCoy farewell tour reaches its final destination on Saturday as the champ gets the leg up for the final time in front of a predicted capacity crowd at the annual end of season finale at Sandown racecourse.
With an expected full book of rides and the only Grade 1 race on the card renamed in honour of McCoy, the entire day looks set to revolve around the retiring champ as race goers and his adoring public begrudgingly come to terms with his inevitable retirement.
For a brief period at Aintree it looked likely that McCoy would be granted his fairytale send off as his final National mount Shutthefrontdoor travelled like a dream and looked the most likely winner a few fences from home, before tiring to eventually finish fifth.
However, Aintree’s loss has become Sandown’s gain as the Northern Irishman will attract a bumper crowd of racing enthusiasts all wishing to see his final ride and hopefully his last ever winner.
The end of season award ceremony will take place as normal prior to racing on Saturday, but Sandown’s Director of Racing Andrew Cooper has agreed for Tony McCoy to collect his final Jockey’s Title mid-card in the build up to the Bet365 AP McCoy Celebration Chase.
This will be McCoy’s 20th consecutive jockeys championship and he is sure to get an emotional and rapturous ovation as he steps up for the final time for his record breaking achievement that will surely never be matched.
After the award ceremony the ‘people’s champ’ will take up his mount in his final ever Grade 1 race on the horse that coincidentally was the catalyst for his announcement to retire way back in February, Mr Mole, after reaching the 200 winner mark for the season.
The race itself, which is named after the great man, looks set to be a cracker with 14 top class two-mile chasers entered up included two former Champion Chase winners in the form of Sprinter Sacre and Sire De Grugy and this year’s second and third Somersby and Special Tiara also set to line up.
In such a wide open renewal and with so many doubts surrounding the other runners, it could be worth siding with the quirky Mr Mole to give AP an emotional victory.
After disappointing at Cheltenham when only a lacklustre eighth in the Champion Chase, Mr Mole has avoided the Aintree festival and been kept fresh for this final target unlike many of the others.
Sire De Grugy, Clarcam, Court Minstrel, Gods Own, Next Sensation, Sew on Target and Vibrato Valtat all tried their luck at Aintree with only Clarcam recording victory.
At the end of a long hard season those horses may just pay for those exertions and with Mr Mole having an extra few weeks to prepare for this showpiece, he is certain to be A1.
His master trainer Paul Nicholls has carried all before him this season as he has churned out regular big race winners from his Ditcheat base throughout the season and he can also cap a memorable year by collecting his Trainer’s Championship prior to racing and then capturing the Feature race with McCoy aboard.
Across the card at Sandown, every McCoy ridden horse should be noted carefully as I am sure every trainer who feels they have a winner in waiting will have been in close contact with McCoy’s agent Dave Roberts, desperate to give the champ his final ever winner and be remembered as part of racing folklore forever.
Finally I would just like to pay tribute to the remarkable man AP McCoy.
It’s quite simply the end of an era and I’m certain it hasn’t quite sunk in for so many of his adoring public and fans.
What he has done for racing is incredible and what he has achieved as a jockey will never be beaten.
He has almost single handedly propelled National Hunt racing into the spotlight as he became the first jockey to ever win Sports Personality of the Year in 2010, capping a memorable season after his victory in The Grand National aboard Dont Push It.
He has smashed every record there was as he has collected an unprecedented 20 consecutive jockey’s titles, passed the 4,000 winner mark and recorded a mammoth 289 winners in a single season.
At the age of 40, the Ulsterman can retire safe in the knowledge that he has plundered every big race there is (most of them more than once) and won the admiration of every racing fan and the general public with his never-say-die attitude and will to win.
Many a word will be written and spoken of McCoy in the aftermath of his retirement, but in truth no words ever feel capable of doing him and his achievements justice.
Let’s hope he has one final hurrah on Saturday.
Mr Mole, Sandown, Saturday, AP McCoy Celebration Chase, 5/1