AP McCoy cheered on Cheltenham Festival farewell

AP McCoy alongside his wife Chanelle McCoy
It was an emotional day for both McCoy and his wife Chanelle

Retiring jockey AP McCoy finished fourth in his final Cheltenham Festival appearance as 68,000 spectators saluted the 19-time champion.

He rode Ned Buntline in the AP McCoy Grand Annual Chase, named in honour of the Northern Irishman.

Earlier, McCoy was ninth on Carlingford Lough in his last Gold Cup, won by the novice steeplechaser Coneygree.

"I'm always someone who has looked forward in life but now I'm going to have to look back," said McCoy.

"I'm a realist and I'm lucky to have ridden here for 20 years. You cannot keep going on, no matter how much you would like to."

Amid emotional scenes, the jockey was cheered in the winners' enclosure following his final Festival outing, a race won by 16-1 chance Next Sensation.

He shared the presentation stage with winning rider Tom Scudamore - one of the men tipped as a potential future champion - who had triumphed on Next Sensation for his trainer brother Michael.

AP McCoy at Cheltenham Festival
Career victories: 31. Third behind Ruby Walsh and Barry Geraghty in all-time winners list at meeting.
Gold Cup wins: Mister Mulligan 1997, Synchronised 2012
Festival top jockey: 1997, 1998
2015 meeting: Had one winner, Uxizandre (16-1) in Ryanair Chase, plus a second and third.

McCoy's wife Chanelle was close to tears as her husband was cheered on leaving the weighing room for one last outing at jump racing's big meeting.

The jockey, who was BBC Sports Personality of the Year in 2010 after winning the Grand National on Don't Push It, has said he will retire by the end of the season, which concludes in Britain on 25 April.

But it is thought he will quit the saddle should he win the 40-runner National at Aintree a fortnight earlier.

"He is most likely to ride Shutthefrontdoor in the National, although a lot can change in four weeks," his boss JP McManus told BBC Sport.

The millionaire racehorse owner said he had not thought about who might replace McCoy as his retained rider.

Looking slightly embarrassed by all the fuss, the jockey addressed the crowd and said: "You have been amazing. I can't believe I have been cheered for finishing fourth."

An emotional triumph

Tom Scudamore's father Peter, a former champion jockey himself, admitted he was one of the few people in the crowd to be cheering for his son.

But the Scudamore clan had their own reasons to be emotional after the deaths of two much-loved family members last year.

Tom Scudamore on Next Sensation celebrates winning the A.P. McCoy Grand Annual Handicap Chase
Tom Scudamore rode Next Sensation to victory in the AP McCoy Grand Annual Handicap Chase

"It's great to ride a winner at the Festival for my brother but also because we lost Granny and Granddad (former jockey and trainer Michael Scudamore) within a short space of each other over the summer," said Tom.

"It's a shame he is not here but he'll definitely be having a Scotch or two with the likes of Terry Biddlecombe and all the other old jockeys in heaven."

And the 32-year-old paid tribute to the departing McCoy.

"The cheers when he came in said it all. I'll miss riding against him enormously. I'm not going to miss being beaten by him though."

And finally

Victory in the last meant Great Britain won the Prestbury Cup by 14 winners to Ireland's 13.

Willie Mullins created history by becoming the first trainer to saddle eight winners at one Cheltenham Festival when Killultagh Vic won the Martin Pipe Handicap Hurdle.

Ruby Walsh (four) just edged out his understudy Paul Townend (three) to be the meeting's top jockey.

Earlier, trainer Nicky Henderson had a 1-2-3 in the Triumph Hurdle as Peace And Co beat Top Notch by a neck, with the McCoy-ridden Hargam in third.

And the racecourse celebrated record attendance figures for the week - Friday's crowd of 68,918 sealing a total of 248,521 over the four days.

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