McCoy proves true 'Legend' in winning Doncaster comeback
AP McCoy rode one last and, he claimed, final winner yesterday when - as a thank-you to ex-trainer Jack Berry for all his fundraising work on behalf of the Injured Jockeys' Fund - he made a 'one-off' return to the saddle for the Leger Legends Stakes at Doncaster.
As the one-mile charity race was run under the Rules of Racing, it means the record books will have to be slightly amended; Gannicus, the 7/2 favourite, trained by Brendan Powell, will now go down as McCoy's 4,358th winner and his 10th on the Flat.
In front of racing royalty, Lester Piggott, Frankie Dettori and Joe Mercer, as well as a crowd of 6,600 (up nine per cent on last year), McCoy cruised to the front two out and, having issued a few reminders to his mount inside the final furlong, galloped on to beat the Billy Newnes-ridden Next Stop by two lengths.
Riding on a 1lb 8oz 'postage stamp' saddle to make the 11st 5lb weight - which was auctioned at a charity lunch for £15,000 to bookmaker Fred Done making it worth, pound (£) for pound (lb) the same as gold - McCoy is clearly enjoying unfettered access to the fridge and the biscuit tin in retirement.
Indeed, for the first time in 20 years, rather than two eyeballs peering out from a skull, he actually is beginning to look quite healthy.
"Everything went to plan, but it always does when you win. Brendan told me not to hit the front until inside the furlong marker, but I was riding long enough to know not to pay too much attention to what the trainer says," he quipped.
The 20-times champion, who still rides out for Jonjo O'Neill, revealed that Berry at first asked him to ride in the race, then tried persuasion and eventually resorted to bullying to get him to dust off his boots.
"It's purely once and once only," he insisted, "unless JP (McManus) ever wanted me to ride something - I'd never say no to him! It's to say thanks for all the hard work Jack has done and it's nice to go out on a winner."
McCoy clearly enjoyed the craic and banter of being back in the weighing room for a couple of hours. "I told Frankie that this time last year he was a hair's breadth from getting an invitation to ride in this race," he said.
This time last year George Baker was ruing the one that got away as Cotai Glory dumped him on the turf in the Flying Childers. Fast forward 12 months and the pair were reunited for the Scarbrough Stakes and there was no mistake this time, with another Charlie Hills-trained sprinter winning a big prize. With champion sprinter-elect Muhaarar and Sprint Cup second and third Strath Burn and Magical Memory also in his stable, rarely has one yard enjoyed such a wealth of riches in the division.
Last year Cotai Glory (11/4 favourite) appeared to spy the gap in the rails where the horses leave the paddock and when he jinked, Baker had no chance of staying in the saddle.
While the three-year-old looked to be thinking about doing it again, Baker was aware to the possibility and kept him straight enough to beat the veteran Kingsgate Native by a length.
"It was better than last year," said Baker. "He had a look again but nothing like as severe.
"He's an intelligent horse and I just think he knows where the paddock is. It was nice to make amends."
Charlie Appleby's Venturous justified odds-on favouritism in the six-furlong conditions stakes and could next be seen in Group One company.
Sent off 10/11 favourite having impressed when winning at Newmarket last time, he briefly had to be shaken up at the two-furlong pole when Rasheeq cruised to the front, but Venturous quickened smartly when asked by William Buick and did not have to be asked a serious question to beat Madrinho by half a length.
"William was pleased with him, he said he travelled nicely but he just came off the bridle at halfway," said Appleby. (© Daily Telegraph, London)