An emotional weekend as the Champ departed

An emotional weekend as the Champ departed

AP McCoy’s final outing at Sandown on Saturday was an unbelievable occasion. 

It was an incredibly emotional day for the racing world, and I count myself lucky to have been there.

When McCoy was handed his 20th Championship, for what will be his final crowning as Champion Jockey, the hairs on the back of my neck stood up.

I couldn’t believe the crowds that had turned out to support him. The stands were jam-packed and everyone was trying to get a view of him.

It was such an emotional moment.

There was also a sense of sadness amongst us jockeys, because we faced the realisation that McCoy’s exit leaves an empty space in the Weighing Room that will be hard to replace.

On Saturday, it wasn’t possible to have as much banter with him in the Weighing Room, because of the huge TV presence that was there. To be fair, it was a huge day for him, so I imagine that he had a lot on his mind.

I spoke to him briefly, wishing him well, and sent him a text afterwards to thank him for inspiring me to become the best jockey that I can be.

When McCoy broke his jaw for the first time in 1998, I was only 16. I remember it vividly.

He continued to ride with his broken jaw, and it dawned on me that if I were to ever compete on his level as a jockey, I’d need to be able to cope with the pain and do the same.

McCoy’s a special talent in that sense, but more so because he’s the kind of sportsman who’s rivals can call him their friend.

Richard Johnson, who’s been runner-up to him 16 times, was clearly sad to see him bow out of racing, and you could see it in his eyes as the pair shook hands.

There’s no other sport where you could consistently come second-place to a competitor, yet still maintain that kind of camaraderie.

Although it wasn’t a great day for me personally, I’m pleased that I at least got to ride at Sandown.

Unfortunately, the three year old I was riding couldn’t cope with the amount of ground water and I pulled up before two out.

Interestingly, this is the first year where we’ve been given a four-day break in between seasons, with the new campaign kicking off on Thursday.

Normally jockeys have just one day to regroup before the new season, so these extra days are a welcome break.

For me, I get to spend a day with the family, taking my daughter Aoife to an animal farm. She was unwell last week, but she’s back to herself now.

I also used the time to visit Jack Berry House, the recently opened rehabilitation centre for injured jockeys in Malton, North Yorkshire.