Tony McCoy’s long goodbye to horse racing takes him to the Cheltenham Festival, where Britain’s most successful jumps jockey has good chances in three marquee races.
McCoy is retiring when the jumps season ends next month — by which time he will have collected his 20th straight champion jockey title — so this will be his last appearance at Cheltenham, which is widely regarded as the most prestigious meet in British racing.
He has already won a record 30 winners at Cheltenham and it would be a major surprise if he didn’t add more starting Tuesday. But for the man who has dominated British racing for the past two decades, it’s the big ones that count.
McCoy says his best shot at a winner is defending champion Jezki in the Champion Hurdle, the opening day’s signature race that McCoy has won three times already. Faugheen, who is unbeaten, and Hurricane Fly — the winner of a record 22 Grade 1 races — are the other big names in the lineup.
“I think Jezki is my best ride because, well, he’s one of the shortest-priced horses that I’ve got to ride,” McCoy said. “And purely because he’s the reigning champion and, if you look back down through the last 20 years of the Champion Hurdle, a lot of the names that were involved in the finish will be involved the following year.”
McCoy decided against riding Jezki in last year’s race and went instead with My Tent Or Yours, which placed second.
He rides Mr Mole in the Queen Mother Champion Chase on Wednesday, although that could boil down to a duel between Sprinter Sacre and Sire De Grugy in what is set to be the standout race of the week. Sprinter Sacre is Britain’s top jumps horse who missed last year’s race because of a heart problem.
The World Hurdle, which takes place on Thursday, is the only big Cheltenham race that McCoy has yet to win. Riding At Fisher’s Cross, that record is unlikely to change as Rock On Ruby is the horse to beat.
The headline race of the festival is always the grueling Gold Cup on Friday, which looks as open as ever this year. Silviniaco Conti, seeking victory in his third attempt, is the favorite and would give trainer Paul Nicholls a record fifth winner in the race but there would be no more popular champion than Carlingford Lough, McCoy’s mount.
McCoy has only once failed to win a race at a Cheltenham Festival (2005) but has only been leading jockey there on two occasions (1997, 98).
“However I do at Cheltenham this year, it will be better than I do at it next year,” McCoy said. “I’m going to try to enjoy this one more than ever.”
For this year only, the last race of the festival has been renamed the AP McCoy Grand Annual Handicap Chase — from the Johnny Henderson Challenge Cup — in honor of McCoy’s achievements. McCoy is set to ride Ned Buntline in the race.
This article was written by Steve Douglas from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.