Sport Horse Racing

Thursday 29 September 2016

McCoy: 'I'm going to miss it'

CHRIS COOK at Aintree

Published 12/04/2015 | 02:30

Tony McCoy clears the last
Tony McCoy clears the last

Tony McCoy's final Grand National produced no blaze of glory in which he could depart from the ranks of professional jockeys, but there was at least the blaze of television lights. No beaten jockey has been in such demand after the famous steeplechase since Dick Francis met with cruel disappointment on Devon Loch in 1956.

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It would have been understandable if the champion jump jockey had wanted to slip out of a side door rather than discuss his feelings having watched but, having taken time in the weighing room to collect his thoughts, McCoy answered questions and offered insights about the experience of riding in the National that may be of assistance to any young jockey prepared to listen.

"I genuinely thought I was going to win," he said, identifying Becher's Brook on the second circuit as the high point of his hopes. "He just made a little bit of a mistake at the third-last. He's probably just run out of gas a little bit, I was nursing him from there on in, I was hanging on to nothing.

Leighton Aspell became the first jockey in 61 years to win back-to-back Grand Nationals on different horses by riding Many Clouds to victory.

The eight-year-old Many Clouds won by a length and three-quarters from Saint Are at odds of 25-1, giving 79-year-old owner Trevor Hemmings a third victory in the race after Hedgehunter in 2005 and Ballabriggs in 2011. Only three other owners have achieved that feat - and none in the past 100 years.

"Many Clouds won the Hennessy, he's a real stayer, but I did think about four-out, which is a long way from home in the Grand National, I did think the dream was on."

Shutthefrontdoor was, inevitably, sent off the clear favourite at 6-1, despite concerns over the fact that he had not run for four months.

"I'm gutted," said McCoy. "I actually really enjoyed myself. There's nothing like riding in the Grand National for the thrill and the buzz, if you get on a horse that takes you round there for a lot of that race and you actually think that you're genuinely going to win. There's no other feeling like it."

When The Druids Nephew fell while leading at the fifth-last, Shutthefrontdoor was left with only Many Clouds in front of him. But McCoy may have begun to sense that his mount had little left for a final challenge and he began to push without response from the home turn. The pair were still second on the run to the last but three horses passed them from that point.

"I got a great ride off him. It might have been stamina but he ran a fantastic race and at least he gave us a thrill for a long way."

And at least we now have another fortnight of McCoy before the final day of the jumps season at Sandown on April 25, his fallback retirement date in the event that he was unable to win this and quit on the spot. But there may not be that many more rides to savour.

He plans to ride at Cheltenham on Wednesday and Thursday before going to Ayr for the Scottish Grand National on Saturday. His mount in that race will presumably be Catching On, currently a 12-1 shot but likely to shorten when punters turn their minds to that event.

These things cannot be taken for granted but, assuming McCoy makes it to Sandown the following weekend in one piece, there will be another healthy dose of media hoopla.

"In some ways, I'm looking forward to it, in other ways I'm not," he said. "I'm not looking forward to the few days after that because I'm going to miss riding. I absolutely love riding. For whatever reason, I'm punishing myself by retiring but I know it's the right time, it has to be done. It's very difficult for a sportsperson to retire but I've been lucky that this'll be my 20th year and I feel like I'm retiring at the top."

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