It’s all about Sandown tomorrow as the curtain comes down on one of the greatest careers in sport. A capacity crowd will be in attendance to give Tony McCoy the send-off he deserves as he rides competitively for the final time.
Many involved in the sport are still finding it difficult to come to terms with the imminent departure of jump racing’s greatest jockey. Former champion John Francome said: "To have that will-power, drive and determination. More than his riding it's his mind-set that has captured me over the years and it won't be the same on a morning and picking up a paper, not seeing his name anywhere.”
The man who sent him out on the path to glory all the years ago, trainer Jim Bolger added: “He was a little gentleman at that stage, and it remained that way for the three and a half years he was with me. He always had the will to win, and as soon as he got the opportunities he made it quite clear he was up for the job.”
Of course no-one is saying that others lack the drive and determination to succeed. But could any other jockey, whether now or in all the years past, have managed to get Wichita Lineman home with his head in front on that memorable day at Cheltenham back in 2009. Such sporting feats define the man. His record defies belief, and we are unlikely to see his kind again.
One man closer to McCoy than most is Jonjo O’Neill, and he added his thoughts of the Champ: “For me his retirement is very sad because he has been a great help and a great fella. The Gold Cup, the National, his 4,000 winners, they were fantastic. All those days were very special.”
O’Neill expects AP to struggle with such a dramatic change to his life: “I know a lot of the lads find it very hard. They can't go in the weighing room, and its difficult hearing the camaraderie, but time is a great healer. I don't know what he will do now. It's very hard to get that buzz from a winner from anything else, you end up changing your lifestyle," said O'Neill. "Who knows, after Saturday he might never want to sit on a horse again. But the door of Jackdaws Castle will always be open. We will welcome him with open arms."
Jonjo’s sentiments have been echoed around the industry. There’s an overwhelming feeling of warmth towards a man that has been one of the sport’s greatest ambassadors. Horse racing has been all the better for having Tony McCoy a part of it for the past 20 years or so. The sight of him urging, stoking-up a willing partner for maximum effort is an image that we will truly miss.
All will wish him well as he ‘weighs-in’ for one last time.