One sporting champion who will be curtailing his regular visits to Market Rasen shortly will be 19 times champion jockey Tony McCoy.
To say he will be greatly missed would be an understatement, but a second career in the media beckons for McCoy who has made a mark already with Friday night racing punditry on Radio 5.
McCoy, or AP as he is universally known in the racing world, announced at the weekend that he is to retire sometime between now and the end of the national hunt season. Very few sportsmen have achieved the dominance he has in a 20-year career, and yet he has remained quietly spoken and modest.
Very much a man for all seasons and at all types of racecourses, he has been relentless in pursuit of winners. He arrived in England from Northern Ireland in 1994 and in his first year became Champion Jockey.
Nobody has had a look in since and he will retain the title for the 20th time. He has already ridden 200 winners this season despite some injuries in the Autumn that probably set him thinking it was time to call it a day while still at the top.
There have been some remarkable days for AP, his win at Aintree on Don’t Push It in the 2010 Grand National the most famous. But there was a remarkable day at Market Rasen in 2002 when he rode five winners on a seven race card.
In his autobiography McCoy wrote: “My overriding feeling going home was that it should have been six, that I shouldn’t have fallen on the last one. And if it had been six, I’m sure I would have been kicking myself that I hadn’t had a ride in a seventh race, that I hadn’t had the opportunity to ride every winner on the card.”
One of those wins was in the feature race, the Summer Plate on Chicuelo. Interestingly in the last race of the aftenoon he was challenging on Passereau when the leader Barnburgh Bay brought them down. McCoy remounted Passereau, which you were allowed to do then but can’t now, and he came home second.
“I had never before ridden six winners at one meeting, no national Hunt rider has, so five winners and a second was not a bad haul,” wrote McCoy.
In that same year not too far away at Southwell, McCoy famously also remounted Family Business, the 8/11 favourite, after he fell with a circuit to go. There were only five runners left but one by one on the final circuit they all fell. McCoy rode his remounted horse home as the only finisher-doubtless creating a scramble on the floor of bookmakers around the country for screwed up betting slips.
Many of McCoys early winners came on the horses of Somerset trainer Martin Pipe, before a decade ago he joined up with Jonjo O’Neill at Jackdaw’s Castle from where he rode many of his winners on the horses of Irish owner J.P.McManus.
His career total stood at 4,315 winners after Sunday, and he clearly hasn’t finished yet. He celebrated the announcement of his retirement in some style at Leopardstown racecourse on Sunday winning the Hennessy Gold Cup, Ireland’s most prestigious chase, for the first time in his 41st year.
Don’t bet against the realistic possibility that this remarkable sportsman will bring down the curtain on his Cheltenham career by riding a third Gold Cup winner next month.
But he will surely not forget that July day in 2002 at Market Rasen. It remains his best day unless of course he rides six winners in the three months left of this season. Don’t count against it!