Tony McCoy admitted it will never be the same again for him at a Cheltenham Festival after he ended his riding career at jump racing’s biggest meeting.
The sport’s finest exponent retires at the end of the season when he will be crowned champion jockey for the 20th consecutive season
He could not bow out at the home of National Hunt racing on a winner, although he did give his supporters brief hope before finishing fourth on Ned Buntline in the race named in his honour, the A.P. McCoy Grand Annual Chase.
Given a reception fit for a winner as he returned, McCoy said: “It’s amazing, but I feel a bit guilty as Next Sensation won the race.
“It’s a very emotional thing. It’s very special, and something I really appreciate.
“This is something I’m really going to miss.”
A reflective McCoy received a presentation in the winner’s enclosure, and said: “It’s disappointing that I won’t ever be riding at the Festival again.
“That’s something I never wanted to think would happen. It was not something I was ever going to look forward to, that’s for sure.
“It’s going to be very different when I come back here next year.
“He made a couple of mistakes and the ground was always going to be a little bit of a worry in terms of stamina and he’s never been a brilliant finisher.”
McCoy went on: “I’m a realist. I’ve been lucky to have ridden here for 20 years.
“You can’t keep going forever, as much as you’d like to.
“I like the sport, I love racing.
“Sure I’m going to miss riding winners, but I love racing and not riding won’t stop me coming back to the Festival.
“There’ll be some sadness when I do come back not as a jockey, but I love a sport that’s been very good to me and I’ll be very glad to come back.
“Cheltenham is an amazing place with amazing people.”
McCoy nominated his Gold Cup win on Synchronised as his greatest Festival success, but added: “I’ve never looked back, as I’ve always looked forward.
“I suppose I better start looking back as I’ve nothing to look forward to.”
McCoy added: “The crowd cheered me all the way to the start and all the way back in.
“It was very emotional coming back in - everyone is being so sporting.
“There are so many great people involved in this sport and I’m going to miss days like this, that’s for sure.
“But I have had a great career and I have no complaints and hopefully there will be more to come.”