Tony McCoy's thrilling ride see Northern Ireland man secure 4,000th winner at Towcester
Tony McCoy produced the kind of swashbuckling ride for which he has become so famous as he secured his 4,000th winner at Towcester.
Few would have given McCoy a chance as his final race of the day reached a climax, but it is in these situations that the gritty Ulsterman is at his best.
He drove Mountain Tunes over the last, shrugging off eventual third Panama Petrus in the process before reeling in leader Kris Spin to clinch a dramatic victory by half a length.
McCoy – who was inducted into the Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards Hall of Fame in 2010 – and Mountain Tunes were 33-1 at one stage in betting in running but the 39-year-old turned that price on its head with a ride that evoked memories of one of his all-time great gutsy performances when he won the 2009 William Hill Trophy at the Cheltenham Festival on Wichita Lineman.
Amazingly McCoy said afterwards that he wasn't happy with the ride he gave the horse – but that was taking modesty a bit too far.
In many ways it was appropriate that McCoy's 4,000th winner should come at Towcester, a modest venue that has done its bit to promote the sport in recent years by offering free admission – as it did yesterday – and typical of the small unglamorous tracks where the Moneyglass rider has racked up so may winners over the last two decades.
A huge crowd descended on the Northamptonshire circuit in the hope of seeing history being made and McCoy didn't let anyone down.
Having earlier suffered disappointment when 3-1 favourite Church Field could finish only fifth in the Agetur Handicap Hurdle, the 18-times champion again teamed up with trainer Jonjo O'Neill and owner JP McManus as 6-4 favourite Mountain Tunes kicked off his career under Rules in the Weatherbys Novices' Hurdle.
Having travelled strongly for much of the two-mile-five-furlong journey, the Tyrella point-to-point winner appeared booked for minor honours as Panama Petrus and Kris Spin asserted from the home turn.
However, McCoy had not given up on Mountain Tunes back in third and galvanised his mount to ensure he was in with a chance jumping the final obstacle.
Kris Spin held a narrow advantage on touching down, but McCoy threw everything at the market leader and with the packed grandstands roaring in anticipation, Mountain Tunes claimed victory.
McCoy (below) had made no secret of his desire to secure his 4,000th winner in the green and gold silks of McManus, to whom he has held a retainer for the last nine years, and the delight on his face as he passed the post in front was clear.
With McManus – who offered to buy each of the 5,000 crowd a drink – O'Neill and the McCoy family on hand to join in the celebrations, the champion admitted it was a fairytale end to his quest.
McCoy said: "To have (wife) Chanelle, (children) Eve and Archie here is great and to do it in the McManus silks means a lot – Eve thinks they belong to me!
"I'm very lucky I work in a great sport. I get lots of support and work for great people. You only have to look at the amount of people who have come out today and supported me. I feel very humbled by it.
"I don't feel I'm any different to anyone else. I hope everyone in the weighing room doesn't think I am any different after today.
"I've ridden 4,000 winners. I'll try to ride a few more.
"I'm really proud of what I've achieved and being able to last, one way or another. I'm lucky and proud to have done it.
"I live in the fear of not winning, but I wouldn't be in this job if I didn't enjoy what I do.
"You have to have goals. Otherwise you get a bit lazy. I'm one of those people who needs to chase something. I find it easier because I love what I do, but it keeps me working that bit harder."
Of his winning ride, McCoy said: "To be honest I didn't give Mountain Tunes a good ride. Jonjo told me he was a nice horse and to ride him like one and not be worried about everyone else watching.
"The horse was fantastic. You can't win any horse race without their help and I've ridden some fantastic horses.
"There is a sense of relief, no doubt, but for the first time in my life I feel a sense of pride of what I've achieved."
He added: "It wasn't until I got past the winning post that I felt I was doing something different."