Tension tells on Chanelle as jockey AP McCoy bows out
Chanelle McCoy rode an emotional roller-coaster yesterday as she watched husband Tony saddle up for his last-ever competitive ride at Cheltenham - in a race that had been specially named after him.
Victory in the AP McCoy Grand Annual Chase would have been a glorious finale to the record-breaking Ulster jockey's illustrious career but, in the end, it was not to be.
A star-studded Cheltenham crowd - including Olympic horsewomen Princess Anne, her daughter Zara and her husband, England rugby international Mike Tindall - watched as the man from Moneyglass, Co Antrim, came in fourth on his mount Ned Buntline.
It may not have been the triumphant finish that McCoy, who has 31 Cheltenham wins to his name, would have preferred, but yesterday's race marked the end of his association with the world famous festival he has graced so many times over the last two decades.
He only had one solitary winner this week, but none of the punters seemed to care. They were there to honour the man who, since he first sprang to prominence in the mid-'90s, has set standards that no other jump jockey could ever match.
The Moneyglass man has been far and away the biggest name in British horse racing for two decades.
Indeed, the mere statistics of his success defy superlatives.
McCoy has ridden over 4,300 winners in his career, and been named Britain's Champion jockey 20 times. In 2010, he was voted BBC Sports Personality of the Year. He was appointed OBE in 2010 in recognition of his services to horse racing.
Speaking after yesterday's valedictory race, McCoy told reporters: "It's disappointing that I won't ever be riding at the festival again. That's something I never wanted to think would happen.
"It was not something I was ever going to look forward to, that's for sure. It's going to be very different when I come back here next year.
'There'll be some sadness when I do come back not as a jockey, but I love a sport that's been very good to me."