18th February 2015

AP McCoy – my last Festival

My final Cheltenham Festival as a jockey is now just three weeks away and I couldn’t be happier to say that Carlingford Lough will be my ride in the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup.

So long as trainer John Kiely and JP McManus are happy with his condition then I will be aboard him on March 13th, and I have Mr Mole to look forward to in the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase and Jezki, as he defends his crown, in the Stan James Champion Hurdle.

Cheltenham this year will probably be a little emotional for me but hopefully I will enjoy it more than I ever have as it will be the last time I will be riding there. The Festival is very special and I got an amazing reaction over in Ireland on Hennessy day when winning on Carlingford Lough. That was every emotional for me and Cheltenham will be very much the same – it will be my last time so I am going to try and enjoy it as I will never be there as a jockey again.

As I said, Carlingford Lough will be my Gold Cup ride; he gave me a great feel winning the Irish Hennessy and I am very much looking forward to riding him in the Gold Cup, if he lines up. Gold Cup day is probably the most important day of the whole jumping year and I am hoping he has got a live chance.

People might look back to last year and point out he was only sixth in the RSA but he never really got into a rhythm and we saw more of what he was capable of when he won the Grade One at Punchestown. John Kiely has the horse in great shape and he is definitely going there with a chance.

My other possible ride was Holywell and he was right back to form at Kelso last Thursday. It wasn’t much of a race but he travelled well and jumped better as the race went on. The way the horse improves through this time of the year he is definitely a Gold Cup contender, that is for sure.

I unfortunately didn’t ride the winner of the Ladbrokes World Hurdle last year but it was still a good result for JP as More Of That won and I finished third on At Fishers Cross. Sadly More Of That bled in his work last week, which is hugely disappointing, and whether he gets back in the given time is very much odds against at the moment. At Fishers Cross ran deplorably bad at Haydock over the weekend – that is the only way of describing it – and he is long way off being a World Hurdle contender at the moment.

Of the other Cheltenham horses I have ridden in the last few weeks, Taquin De Seuil ran at Newbury in the Denman Chase and weakened back to finish fourth. He probably doesn’t stay the three miles, and was too keen and gassy that day, so I imagine he will drop in trip and go for the Ryanair.

I was quite happy with Jollyallan at Sandown when he was a narrow second there at the end of last month and he will be a much better horse on good ground. Jessica Harrington has been very happy with Jezki ahead of the Champion Hurdle, and Mr Mole won well at Newbury.

He, of course, gave me my 200th winner of the season and I never would have thought he would be a Champion Chase horse but he is now going there with a chance in a very open race. I don’t know how Paul Nicholls has got him to improve how he has, and with Sprinter Sacre and Sire De Grugy having a bit to prove, he is definitely going there with a chance.

It has been over a week since I made my retirement announcement and I have become a little more used to the idea of retirement, I am even trying to give myself the chance to enjoy it. I realise that my career is coming to the end but I am happier in myself now it is out in the open rather than when I was keeping it to myself during the two weeks building up to it. So I am a little happier but I know it is going to go quickly and that is the worrying thing.

The main reason I wanted to announce it when I did was that I didn’t want to get through Cheltenham and Aintree to a point where there wasn’t much news in the racing world and have people saying I was about to win my 20th title and then have someone writing about whether I would or would not carry on. I didn’t want to be reading about that so I thought it best to get my plans out in the open.

I hoped the day I announced my retirement would never come, and as I said jokingly last week, I have been thinking about it for five years. But in many ways it was five years ago as I thought that if I won another five jockeys’ championships it would be 20 years I had been champion, and that is a long time for a jockey.

I have always had a fear of riding on too long, and I want people to think I could and should be riding a bit longer rather than people thinking I shouldn’t still be riding. I want to go out while it is still going to hurt me to retire and while I was Champion Jockey, rather at a time when I wasn’t quite so successful.

I have been very flattered by the reaction I have received but at the same time I find it a little embarrassing as I don’t want people to think I am dragging it out – that was never my intention. I do appreciate the interest, support and good wishes but I still have a job to do, and the guy who has backed me to win doesn’t care if I am retiring or not.

I had originally thought I would like to go out on one of JP and Jonjo’s horses but I have had a lot of people asking about when my final ride will be and saying they would like to be at the races that day so I maybe need to give it a bit more thought. I will try and give everyone notice of when it will be but I am still not sure myself. Like I say, it won’t be at Cheltenham as I do want another crack at the Grand National, and I intend to make the most of the next few weeks as I know they will fly by.