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McCoy bows out with third place
25 Apr 2015 21:09
GALLERY: Tony McCoy's glittering racing career McCoy in numbers: his career facts and figures
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Tony McCoy had to settle for third place on the final ride of his career in the bet365 Handicap Hurdle at Sandown.
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McCoy, the 40-year-old who has ridden far more winners over fences than any other jockey, was willed on to a fairytale finish by a capacity crowd of 18,000 at in the London suburbs.
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He had two final rides on Mr Mole and, fittingly, his last mount was called Box Office.
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Yet even his famed alchemy could not push either to victory in the green and gold silks of his multi-millionaire employer, JP McManus, nor add to his final total of 4,357 victories in Ireland and Britain.
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Both horses finished third but there was no sense of anti-climax as one of the racing world's most popular sportsmen bowed out to a demonstration of affection from his competitors and spectators alike that few retiring champions will ever enjoy.
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One of the hardest athletes who ever drew breath was reduced to tears on board Box Office as the crowd cheered him.
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On the last day of the jumps season, McCoy was given a guard of honour from fellow jockeys and serenaded by the entire grandstand who sang 'For he's a jolly good fellow' before collecting the trophy for champion jockey for an almost unreal 20th consecutive year.
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Indeed, organisers let McCoy keep the Cup for good. The crowd, many of them donning paper McCoy masks, roared they approval as he told them: "I've been privileged, doing something I absolutely loved. But retiring's absolutely the right thing to do. If I'd gone on until I wasn't as good as I was, then that wouldn't have been right."
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The man from Moneyglass in Co Antrim has made a farewell tour of Ireland and Britain's courses since revealing his decision to retire 11 weeks ago. On his last day as a jockey, he looked for much of the afternoon as cheerful as a dead man walking.
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McCoy's career has been as extraordinary for its resilience and fortitude as for its excellence; seemingly indestructible, he's bounced back from 13 broken bones, 14 shattered teeth and, twice, punctured lungs.
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No wonder his wife Chanelle, attending with their two young children, looked so relieved. After 17,630 rides, the only thing that mattered was that she had her husband back in one piece.
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A tearful McCoy said: "It's amazing. I've been so lucky all my life. I'll never forget this day."
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