The National Hunt racing world has bid a fond farewell to the most successful jump jockey in the history of horse racing anywhere in the world – AP McCoy.
“AP” decided to step down after winning an unprecedented 20 Champion Jockey titles in a row in the UK – the world’s foremost country for National Hunt racing. During that time, the great champion kept up an incredible regimen – riding 4,348 winners and every big race in the sport.
Such has been his dominance in the race for the jockey’s title each year that there has been more or less no betting market for that event over recent years. Of course, that all changes now and there has been a huge amount of speculation as to who will be the next champion jockey.
As things stand, the major bookies, including 32Red, Ladbrokes and Skyvegas, have perennial runner-up Richard Johnson as a contender for next year’s title. But teenage sensation Sean Bowen, aged just 17, looks like being the next big name in the sport.
Perhaps, though, 2016 will be a year or two too early for Bowen, although he is surely going to be a big name of the future in the sport, having already proved himself a leading conditional (apprentice) rider for both the champion trainer Paul Nicholls and his trainer-father Peter Bowen.
But there will surely never be another AP McCoy – such has been his dominance of the sport – and National Hunt racing will never again be the same without him.
During his two decades of utter dominance, McCoy has won the Champion Jockey title every single year since turning professional in time for the 1995/96 season. And when you think that the old record for consecutive jockey titles of seven was set by Peter Scudamore (which was in itself an amazing feat), it helps demonstrate just how unlikely it is that another jockey will ever come close to AP’s greatness.
He has also won just about every big race he could have in his sport, including the Grand National when he won on Don’t Push It in 2010, the Cheltenham Gold Cup, riding Mr Mulligan in 1997 and Synchronised in 2012, and the Champion Hurdle with Binocular in 2010 and Brave Inca back in 2006. He has also recorded many other wins in Cheltenham’s biggest races.
Thankfully, McCoy’s overall greatness in his sport was also recognised when he was awarded the prestigious BBC Sports Personality of the Year award back in 2010. This was the first time the title had ever gone to a jockey and was due mainly to his win on Don’ Push it at Aintree. There will surely be many more plaudits to come yet and deservedly so. The 40-year-old man from County Antrim in Northern Ireland is a complete one-off. Horse racing will never see his like again.