Sir Anthony McCoy showed he had lost none of his skills in the saddle or the famous competitive edge that propelled him to multiple jockeys’ titles and over 4,000 winners as he made all to win the Pat Smullen Champions Race For Cancer Trials Ireland at the Curragh.
McCoy was one of the legends of the saddle coaxed out of retirement by Pat Smullen to raise money for Cancer Trials Ireland, and the race did not disappoint.
The multiple champion jump jockey set out to make all on the Sheila Lavery-trained Quizical and was tracked the whole way by his great friend and adversary Ruby Walsh.
Walsh on Aussie Valentine pressed McCoy with just under two furlongs to go but could not get to him, and it looked as though Paul Carberry on Katyimann or Johnny Murtagh on Red Striker might take victory instead.
However, as was so often the case during his unrivalled career, McCoy had too much for his rivals in the finish and took the prize from Walsh, his obvious delight showcased as he punched the air furiously after crossing the line first.
He said: "Pat is a very special person and a great friend to us all. Unfortunately it’s sad and tough circumstances that we’re doing this today but it shows what a brilliant sport this is that everyone has got behind it. It’s been a tough day. It was emotional.
"I said I'd never ride in a horse race again and I genuinely meant it but I'm glad I did what I did today. You want to compete against the best and that’s what made today special. People will never get a chance to see these multiple champions in action like that again today."
He added: "Pat can be really really proud of today and the money that he’s raised. This is all about Pat Smullen – he’s a remarkable person."
Smullen was forced to retire last year after being diagnosed with cancer, but had been aiming to return to the saddle to contest a race he had been the driving force behind creating and promoting.
The Derby-winning rider was forced to withdraw from the race on medical advice last month, but thanked racing, and the wider public, for its support of him, the race and for the charity fundraising.
"They left him alone in front!" joked Smullen, who was given three cheers by the crowd in the winner's enclosure. "I’m really pleased for Sheila and John Lavery, who own the horse. John was made up when he had AP ride for him and to get this result, and it’s no disrespect to any of the other lads, I think it’s the one everyone wanted.
"It’s amazing and I'm overcome to be honest. It’s not about me. It’s about all the people in this situation and we’re after raising an enormous amount of money which will make a huge difference going forward.
"It’s humbling to think everyone has come together and it’s gone beyond the racing public to the general public. It’s a positive for the Curragh, for Irish racing and it’s a privilege to be involved in this great sport."