AP McCoy didn’t get the fairytale ending the horse-racing public desperately willed him to have. His final act came on a fairly run of the mill Saturday card in middle England. A pair of third place finishes on board Mr. Mole and Box Office wasn’t quite the script his audience had in mind. Don’t see it as a disappointment – it’s possibly the most appropriate ending McCoy’s career could have had.
It’s fitting because what made McCoy special as a jockey wasn’t the guarantee of glory. Putting him on your horse didn’t make the horse immeasurably better. Sure, his balls of steel helped in a tight situation, but he couldn’t turn water into rocket-fuel and that’s not what racked up his remarkable numbers.
It was the relentless dedication. That’s what made the difference.
For all the winners he rode, there were thousands more that didn’t oblige. Often accompanied by pain both physical and emotional. As the post-racing gin and slimline tonics hit the lips of owners and the less dedicated among the weighing room, AP was slogging away in distant towns, devoted to his profession.
There were days when he’d finish up in one course and hit the motorway for a couple of rides many miles away. Days that often ended in disappointment and bitter self-reflection. If he was beaten, he wouldn’t let it discourage him. He’d get right back on the horse and go again, fully prepared to encounter whichever of the triumph or disaster impostors were destined to cross his path.
It’s not just the remarkable feat of 20 Champion Jockey titles in a row or the 4,357 winners that make him truly exceptional.
For a person who is so competitive, it’s rare to see such geniality. For someone who has enjoyed so much success, you don’t often get such humility. For a man known to be ruthless, seldom does it come with such compassion.
There’s nothing quite like racing to reveal the character of a man. No matter who you are, victory is never out of the question yet defeat lurks unavoidably in the background. Any facades soon unravel in the face of inevitable set backs. Yet McCoy’s character remained constant. Unfailingly polite and obliging even when a microphone was thrust in his face at the most undesirable of moments, even the armchair viewer could appreciate his good nature and good sportsmanship.
Despite what McCoy’s modest disposition may insist, racing will never see his like again.
Thank you, AP. Thank you, Champ.