McCoy looks to end racing career with 2nd Grand National win
His image has been beamed onto one of Liverpool's most famous buildings alongside the message: ''The Greatest Jockey. The Greatest Race.'' He has been inducted into Aintree's hall of fame. Racegoers have written tributes to him on a specially constructed signature wall.
There's been only one topic of conversation going into the 168th running of the Grand National Steeplechase: Tony McCoy.
The outpouring of emotion toward McCoy, Britain's greatest jumps jockey with 19 - soon to be 20 - national titles, has been overwhelming ahead of his last appearance at the Aintree Festival. The Northern Irishman has said he will retire at the end of the jumps season, which climaxes at Sandown on April 25, but McCoy has suggested he will end his career if he wins Saturday's Grand National.
''I have dreamt a lot in my life,'' McCoy said,'' but I would not be silly enough to dream about winning the National again.''
It could happen. McCoy's mount, Shutthefrontdoor, is the clear pre-race favourite at odds of 7-1, giving McCoy a great chance of following up his victory on Don't Push It in 2010 that ended his barren streak in the world's toughest test of jumping.
Thirty fences and 4 1/2 miles (6,400 meters) stand between McCoy and what would be one of the most emotional story lines in British horse racing.
''When you start out as a jump jockey, the Grand National is the race you want to take part it in and, more than that, the race you want to win,'' McCoy said ahead of his record 20th ride in the National. ''It's the greatest horse race in the world.''
Organisers are giving McCoy a tremendous send-off. As dusk fell on Wednesday, an image of McCoy - with a whip in his right hand and gripping the reins on Don't Push It with his left - was projected onto the Royal Liver Building that overlooks the River Mersey in central Liverpool, which is the nearest city to Aintree.
''Ahead of his retirement and his last ever ride in the race we ... felt it appropriate to do something special to honor this sporting legend,'' said John Baker, Aintree's managing director.
There will be 39 horses looking to stop McCoy on Saturday in a race that will be screened to a worldwide TV audience of about 600 million and is a favorite for once-a-year betters.
Pineau De Re, the 2014 winner, is back for a shot at becoming the first horse since Red Rum in 1973-74 to win back-to-back Grand Nationals. His form hasn't been great this season and he finished down the field in his last race, the Pertemps Final at the Cheltenham Festival.
''It's been a bit more difficult as he's getting on a bit,'' owner John Provan said, ''but we now think he's as good as we're going to get him for the National.''
After Katie Walsh won the Irish Grand National on 20-1 shot Thunder And Roses on Monday, Nina Carberry will look to become the first female jockey to win the English equivalent when she rides First Lieutenant. Carberry is the only female jockey in the race.
As ever, the National will be under scrutiny because of the potential for horse fatalities over the race's fearsome fences. However, modifications to the course since two horses died in each of the 2011 and '12 editions have improved the situation and there were no deaths in the last two races.