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Sunday 17 December 2017

Track Talk: Great occasions in quick succession at Leopardstown

Chantelle McCoy kisses husband Tony after his win on Carlingford Lough in the Hennessy
Leopardstown
Chantelle McCoy kisses husband Tony after his win on Carlingford Lough in the Hennessy Leopardstown

Hurricane Fly's Irish Champion Hurdle win last month was a great occasion to be in Leopardstown.

One could never have imagined that only a couple of weeks later we'd be back at the same venue and enjoying yet another emotionally charged afternoon that again ended with a rapturous reception for a very deserving winner.

Unlike Hurricane Fly, who is now the public's horse, Sunday's crowd flocked around the parade ring to pay homage to an incredible jockey that we won't be seeing for much longer - indeed, there's a chance that the Irish public may only see him at two more festivals, the Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse and Punchestown.

McCoy has never been one to give you five words when four will do, but in recent times he has been much more media friendly. Being crowned BBC Sports Personality of the Year in 2010 and the circus surrounding his 4,000th winner all helped, but you couldn't have a negative thing to say about McCoy on Sunday.

From the moment he got in past the turnstiles at Leopardstown he spent most of his time signing authographs, standing for selfies or posing for photographs the old fashioned way.

After winning the Hennessy on Carlingford Lough, the welcome he got back in the parade ring was fitting for a man who has done so much for the sport. The crowd, undoubtedly bigger for McCoy's announcement the previous day, were keen to show their appreciation, while there was no doubt that McCoy himself appreciated the reception.

As he was escorted to the RTÉ perch by the side of the parade ring he was met by a hug and a grimace from Ted Walsh whose Foxrock finished second but it was from the moment that Brian Gleeson began his interview with the soon to be 20-time champion jockey, there was an amazing hush of silence among the 11,000 plus there.

As the television interview was played out live over the Leopardstown public address system, there was an eerie silence from racegoers as McCoy addressed us all with his reasoning behind the decision that grabbed headlines on the front, the back and the middle of newspapers on Sunday and Monday.

Another never-to-forget moment at the Dublin venue.

McCoy didn't exactly shock the world by making the decision to retire at the end of this season but the manner and timing of the announcement was probably a bit of a surprise.

All the accolades have been listed and the superlatives rolled out for a jockey, the like of which we will never see again.

Personally, I'm not going to sit here and brand him the greatest jockey of all time. You might. And that is the beauty of horseracing. Opinions.

There's no book or formula to define McCoy as 'the greatest jockey of all time', although there is no doubt we will never see his strength, grit, determination or pain-threshold built into one man and that ability to win on horses that few, if any, others would have.

For what it's worth, Ruby Walsh is the greatest I have seen and while we hopefully have another three or four years watching him, I'm not going to say today that McCoy is the greatest and then change my mind when Ruby decides to follow him into retirement.

For now, lets just enjoy messrs McCoy, Walsh and Geraghty doing battle upsides while we still can.

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