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LONDON (Reuters) - A.P McCoy bade farewell in tears to one of the most incredible careers in sport and admitted that his final day in racing on Saturday, while wonderful and emotional, had been one of the hardest days of his life.
The 40-year-old Northern Irishman, one of British sport’s titans, was roared and feted by a full house of 18,000 at Sandown Park even if he failed to win his last two rides on the day he was crowned champion jockey for a 20th successive year.
While he described his extraordinary, affectionate reception as "an unbelievable day I’ll never forget", he was not about to hide how difficult it was to walk away from a sport he bestrode as a colossus for two decades.
"It’s been one of the hardest days in my life. In a lot of ways, it had to be this way, it had to be difficult," said McCoy.
"It was always my dream to bow out at the top. I wanted to get out while I was still champion jockey and I have."
It was such an emotional occasion for McCoy that he could not stop the tears, even as he prepared for his very final ride aboard Box Office -- a horse which sadly could not come up with a performance befitting its name.
"There were tears coming back on Box Office. Actually, there were nearly tears going out on Box Office too but I pulled my goggles down so nobody would notice," McCoy said.
Everybody worries how the famously obsessive and single-minded ‘Champ’ will cope, bereft without the rush that accompanies sport’s toughest daily beat.
He said with a shrug that he still had no idea, either, and reckoned the "fear of retirement" will only grow over the next few weeks. This week, though, he will be going to hospital in Ireland, visiting his old friends, cousins Robbie and J.T McNamara, jockeys who have both suffered terrible injuries in falls.
"That will put my head right, putting things into perspective pretty quickly," he said.
And with one final wistful reflection on his career, he noted: "I really think I’ve lived the dream. My only wish is that I could go back and do it all again."
Editing by Alan Baldwin