Former Southern outdoors and farming correspondent Sally Gillespie went along to Kelso racecourse last week to witness champion jockey AP McCoy’s last outing at the Borders course.
I wanted to be there for what would likely be AP McCoy’s last outing at Kelso.
So, it seems, did several others: the gate was up from 1,700 last year to nearly 2,200 when McCoy won the Ivan Straker Memorial race with Gold Cup prospect Holywell. Hundreds of cameras snapped at him in the winners’ enclosure (him first, then the horse).
Retired computer manager and racing enthusiast for 50 years, Alan Todd from Worcester, shared his card. He’s aiming to photograph all 88 national hunt, flat and all-weather courses in Britain.
He’s knocked off 63 so far and last Thursday was his first visit to Kelso.
“It’s quaint, lovely, very informal,” he told me.
And McCoy? “There will be nobody like him, he’s totally driven. He attacks every race, he wants to win everything, it doesn’t matter what he’s on, he will try, he never gives up,” added Todd.
McCoy told the Kelso crowds he wanted to enjoy his last few months’ racing, adding: “I didn’t expect to be champion jockey once, let alone 20 times.” We clapped.
I’m told the racecourse’s carrot-providers, Colin and Ruth McGrath, had bought an extra bag to give to AP if he didn’t win anything. Hah. He styled home to victory on Holywell in the 3.30pm and we all clapped some more.
“He’s definitely a horse that’s going to have a chance in the Gold Cup,” said the champ.
Commentator Bill Harvey said: “This is a special day in the history of Kelso racecourse”, before racecourse chairman Johnny Jeffreys and the Duke of Roxburghe presented the Ulsterman with an inscribed bowl.
The crowds gave three rousing cheers for the popular jockey, the last to his retreating back as he sped into the weighing room for the 4pm race.
I’m so glad I went.