Sir Anthony Peter ‘A.P.’ McCoy is widely regarded as the greatest National Hunt jockey ever and, as such, requires little further introduction. On his retirement from the saddle in April, 2015, McCoy had ridden 4,348 winners in Britain and Ireland and won the British Jump Jockeys’ Championship every year between 1995/96 and 2014/15. At the Cheltenham Festival, McCoy was leading jockey just twice, in 1997 and 1998, but his career total of 31 winners at the March showpiece meeting places him in third-place on the all-time list, behind just Ruby Walsh and Barry Geraghty.
McCoy rode his first winner at the Cheltenham Festival, Kibreet in the Grand Annual Chase, in his first season as a fully-fledged professional, in 1996. The following season he recorded a notable treble, winning the Arkle Challenge Trophy and the Champion Hurdle on Or Royal and Make A Stand, both trained by Martin Pipe, and the Cheltenham Gold Cup on Mr. Mulligan, trained by Noel Chance. In 1998, McCoy partnered another four Martin Pipe-trained winners – namely Champleve in the Arkle Challenge Trophy, Unsinkable Boxer in the Pertemps Final, Cyfor Malta in the Cathcart Challenge Cup and Blowing Wind in the County Hurdle – plus Edredon Bleu, trained by Henrietta Knight, in the Grand Annual Chase, to increase his winning tally to five.
With the exceptions of 2001 and 2005, McCoy rode at least one Cheltenham Festival winner every year from 1999 until the end of his riding career in 2015. He never did manage to complete a clean sweep of the four main ‘championship’ races – the Stayers’ Hurdle being a notable omission – but did win the Champion Hurdle twice more, on Brave Inca in 2006 and Binocular in 2010, the Cheltenham Gold Cup once more, on the subsequently ill-fated Synchronised in 2012, and the Queen Mother Champion Chase once, on Edredon Bleu in 2000. Fittingly, his final Cheltenham Festival winner, Uxizandre in the Ryanair Chase in 2015, was owned by John Patrick ‘J.P.’ McManus, by whom McCoy had been paid a retainer, rumoured to be up to £1 million a year, for the last decade or so of his career.