When English viewers were watching Channel 4 television coverage of Newbury horse racing on Saturday afternoon, one of the main sources of interest was the return of 2014 Queen Mother Champion Chase winner Sire De Grugy after an injury setback. It was earmarked as a final preparation race before attempting to retain his crown at the Cheltenham festival in March. Unfortunately, the horse did not complete the course due to third last fence blunder leaving Mr Mole, with Tony McCoy riding, to comfortably win the Game Spirit Chase. What followed stunned the general racing public.
As McCoy was returning to the unsaddling enclosure aboard Mr Mole, he was reminded by Channel 4 presenter Rishi Persad that he had just ridden a 200th winner of the jumping season for the tenth time. McCoy replied with his notoriously dry humour that he it would be the last time that he would accomplish such a feat as he would be retiring at the end of the season.
Very few people were aware of this decision prior to this very public announcement and not even his parents had been informed as racegoers digested the surprise news.
McCoy has been champion jockey for 20 campaigns and had hoped to be the first rider to complete 300 victories during a national hunt season but a painful rib injury during the later stages of 2014 deprived him of several weeks racing and any meaningful opportunity to set such a milestone. Perhaps he now realised that the 300 target was now unrealistic as his body ages and recovery time from injuries lengthens. As he claimed in a later interview, 20 titles seemed a nice round number in which to end a career.
There are likely to be emotional scenes when McCoy rides his last horse at the forthcoming Cheltenham meeting and during the Sandown fixture scheduled for the end of April when it is planned for the popular jockey to hang up his boots for the final time.
He has achieved just about everything he could have wished in a very successful riding career and his skill in mastering a close finish by claiming the narrowest of victories may never be bettered.
Tony McCoy may suffer further injuries in the coming months as that is one the constant risks for jockeys in the sport but everybody connected with horse racing will hope that he emerges relatively unscathed by May. However, if the Irishman needs some reminding of the dangers of riding national hunt horses, then it arrived in the race immediately following his victory on Mr Mole.
His horse Goodwood Mirage fell at the first hurdle leaving McCoy looking bewildered on the ground. He was uninjured but the race demonstrated how circumstances can change within half an hour of horse racing and the champion jockey will be only too aware of the hazards.