THE INCOMPARABLE AP McCoy is no stranger to the winner’s enclosure. The leading jockey at Catterick this season, Dewala’s success was just the 4,325th of an extraordinary career entering its final furlong after racing’s record-breaker announced his intention to retire by the end of the season.
Yet, while the chisel-faced McCoy will regard this triumph as one of the more routine of the past two decades after leading from start to finish, it was a priceless moment of sporting history to those racing devotees who surrounded the compact winner’s enclosure to salute their idol.
They knew that they might not get another chance to do so – and did their best to make the most of the occasion. As the 19-times champion jockey’s navy blue peaked cap became visible, the ripple of polite applause became louder and more intense. A smile of recognition became etched across the maestro’s face before he dismounted and debriefed connections.
For, while the adulation was never going to match Newbury on Saturday where McCoy confirmed his momentous retirement decision, or the delirium at Leopardstown on Sunday, mundane Mondays at have been just as important to his career - even though he admits to being embarrassed by the adulation.
“I am very surprised by the reaction,” the 40-year-old confided to The Yorkshire Post. “It has created a bit of a circus which is not me. I’m very flattered by the attention, but it’s good to get back to the day job.”
Modesty has always been McCoy’s middle name, and he’s always used self-depreciation to keep his feet in the riding stirrups.
After a roller-coaster 48 hours, he was one of the early arrivals at the North Yorkshire track and enjoyed a fortifying 40 winks in the calm of the weighing room before changing into his riding silks.
He could not leave the weighing room’s quiet sanctuary without wellwishers asking for autographs – McCoy’s signature, to his eternal credit, is still as decipherable today as it was two decades ago when he was winning the first of 20 successive titles.
The personification of politeness, every autograph was written politely and he also showed admirable patience as he paused for the now ubiquitous ‘selfies’ – even the paddock offered no respite from the requests under warming skies.
As he received the leg-up on Dewala, the horse’s trainer Michael Appleby remarked rather ominously: “He’s never ridden me a winner.”
Yet, after a slight error at the first, the outcome was not in doubt. “If you watch McCoy, he makes up the horse’s mind,” remarked leading Flat jockey Andrew Mullen who has ridden Dewala on the level and who wanted to see this sporting phenomenon at close quarters.
McCoy won’t have become rich by the first prize of £2,972 – his share will barely cover his expenses – but that’s not point. Such successes have underpinned his supremacy; he always said he would give up riding if he was no longer good enough to be champion.
Within minutes, he had changed into Red Devil Boy’s silks, and was back signing racecards, before his second ride of the day. There was no fairytale finish – the horse slipped on the final bend was a remote fourth.
Yet racegoers still serenaded the podium area to wait to salute AP McCoy as he was presented with a memento. He assured them: “I am going to enjoy what is left of my career.” And so, too, will the world of horse racing.
Harvey salutes a born winner
HArvey SMITH was among the Catterick racegoers to salute AP McCoy. “No other jockey has had the enthusiasm and dedication that AP has shown,” said the showjumping legend. “He has been the best and will never be replaced. The British Horseracing Authority have got to find another person to pull in the crowds!”
Young conditional jockey Callum Bewley, who is attached to Smith’s Bingley yard, said: “He is what everyone else wants to be.” And McCoy’s reign was put into further context by Ryedale amateur rider William Easterby. “I am 20 now and I have only ever known one champion. I’ve grown up watching the best,” said the jockey whose grandfather Peter trained five Champion Hurdle winners.