By News Team
25th April 2020
It’s been five years since 20-time Champion Jockey Sir AP McCoy retired from the saddle in April 2015. So just how hard was retiring for the greatest jockey in the history of horse racing?
The hardest thing I’ve ever done. Everything in my life was structured, everything was planned, everything was all targets and numbers.
I knew from when I was lucky enough to be Champion Jockey 15 times in a row, not long after I won the Grand National, I set the benchmark to win 20 jockey championships. I’ll be 40, a couple of weeks short of my 41st birthday, and I thought if I win 20 jockey championships in a row I’m going to retire.
I knew for five years that was the way it was going to be. I didn’t want people to think that I wasn’t good as I once was or I never wanted to think that I wasn’t as good as I once was. I didn’t want to get to the point where I got up one day and thought this isn’t for me anymore, I’m not as good as I was.
I wanted it to be my decision, I wanted to be at the top, I wanted to be Champion Jockey and I wanted people to ask why are you retiring? Not, why are you not retiring?
I told JP McManus at the beginning of my last year riding, just after winning the Champion Hurdle on Jezki in Punchestown, I was having dinner with him that night in his house and I said look, I want to tell you this is going to be my last year riding. He looked at me and said why? He said you know you can’t make those decisions yet, you know you might not want to. Look, I don’t want to, but that’s the way it is, I said. You know I want to win the Jockeys’ Championship this year and that will be it.
I rode my fastest 50th winner ever, I rode my fastest 100th winner and I came back on 28th August after riding my fastest 100th winner and I said to my wife, you know what, I actually think I’m getting better.
I kind of had this thing in my mind that I’d never ridden 300 winners in a season before. I rode 289 when I broke Sir Gordon Richard’s record in 2002 and I rode 307 winners in the calendar year of 2002, but not in a season. I kind of thought do you know what, if I could ride 300 winners and retire, that would be it, I’d be happy.
I rode my fastest 150th winner and then sadly one Thursday night in Worcester I got a fall in the last race at the first hurdle. I dislocated my collarbone, broke three ribs and punctured my lung. I had four or five days off and I went back riding on the Tuesday in Huntingdon because I still thought I was going to ride 300 winners. I knew I couldn’t have any days off, there’s only 365 days in the year and you can’t be you know. It’s only 65 days that you can’t ride a winner.
I went back riding, rode three winners at Huntingdon and then I rode a horse of Jonjo’s [O’Neill) the next day and I managed to pull my shoulder out in the end. I basically had to give up riding.
It was probably the first time ever in my life that I actually was emotionally broken because I knew that I wasn’t going to ride 300 winners. I knew it was going to be my last year riding and I knew it was over.
So, how hard was retirement? It was all right until that moment. I was prepared for it until that happened.
🗣️“I wanted it to be my decision, I wanted to be at the top and I wanted to be Champion Jockey.”
— William Hill Racing (@WillHillRacing) April 25, 2020