Paul Nicholls: It would be a dream to give AP one last winner on his final day in the saddle

Can Mr Mole and AP team up for one last win in the ultra-competitive Celebration Chase on Saturday?
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AP McCoy will sign off a sterling career at Sandown on Saturday and Paul Nicholls has kept one of his best horses fresh for the occasion. Ahead of what will be an emotional day, Paul pays tribute to one of the finest jockeys of all time.

"His relentless record of success, the sheer volume of winners year after year, the dedication, the constant battle with the scales all mark him down as the best overall jump jockey there has ever been."

There is nothing I would like more on Saturday than provide the record breaking champion jockey AP McCoy with a winner on his final day in the saddle.

He has already won on Mr Mole several times and I've kept the horse fresh since Cheltenham for the AP McCoy Celebration Chase at Sandown.

Just imagine the reception he will get if he comes home in front on Mr Mole in the green and gold colours of his greatest supporter JP McManus.

The course will be packed to overflowing on Saturday with people anxious to get a last sight of the jockey who has turned the sport on its head over the last 21 years.

What he had achieved in that time is beyond belief. More than 4,300 winners, 20 successive jockeys' championships and victories in just about every major jumping race in the calendar.

Maybe someone will beat AP's total of winners in the distant future but it is hard to imagine it happening in our lifetime. His relentless record of success, the sheer volume of winners year after year, the dedication, the constant battle with the scales all mark him down as the best overall jump jockey there has ever been.

Yet as someone who enjoyed a highly fruitful partnership with Ruby Walsh for more than a decade I would not want to split them. The truth is that racing has been blessed to have two such outstanding jockeys at the same time.

AP and I go back a long way. I spotted his potential soon after he arrived from Ireland, and used him for the first time on Warfield in a boys' race at Sandown in 1995. They didn't win but I was impressed by his style and attitude and felt he would do for me any time.

In August that year we reached a gentleman's agreement that he would ride the majority of my horses. We shared a hatful of winners together, too, but I didn't have the numbers in those days and eventually AP moved on to join forces with Martin Pipe.

Things were briefly a bit tricky between us but that is all in the past now and I made up with AP in time for him to ride Belmont King to victory for me in the 1997 Scottish Grand National. He was the obvious choice, he was available and he seized the moment with a brilliantly aggressive ride from the front.

He has ridden plenty of winners for me since then and is as good now as he has ever been. It's also worth stating he is a genuinely good guy who always has a friendly word for the lads and lasses who look after the horses he rides.

Obviously it helps that AP possesses a rare toughness of spirit that has seen him bounce back quicker than seemed possible from a series of bad injuries.

I have to say I am delighted he is getting out in one piece. I am sure he is doing the right thing by stopping now even though he sounds far from convinced about his decision to retire.

You sense that he doesn't really want to end his career yet so Saturday will be a tough day for him. So will next week when the new season springs into life.

At first he will not find life easy out of the saddle. But it must surely help that he bows out having fulfilled everything that a jockey dreams of achieving at the outset.


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