After more than half century of trying, horse racing finally trotted into the winner's enclosure of the Sports Personality of the Year last night when A P McCoy received the BBC award.
The 36-year-old beat the world darts champion Phil Taylor and the heptathlete Jessica Ennis into second and third place respectively to lift the trophy at the Birmingham NEC. McCoy is the first jockey to be named Sports Personality in the 57 years of the TV programme and did so by a landslide. With more than 650,000 votes cast, the Ulsterman collected 41.9 per cent.
McCoy put his success down to his Grand National victory aboard Don't Push It in April. The Ulsterman, who has ridden a record 3,383 winners, had never before prevailed in the fabled Aintree steeplechase. "When I started off as a jockey I wanted to be champion jockey in my mind, and I have been lucky enough to be champion jockey for 15 years," said McCoy. "But the Grand National is the biggest horse race in the world and everyone knows I had won all the other races and to finally achieve that... it was just an unbelievable day."
His triumph will mean a great deal to his sport, which pulled together by launching a number of campaigns to get their man over the line. "Hopefully this will help the sport's profile, as it has given me so, so much," said McCoy.
There was also euphoria in darts when Taylor stepped up for the runners-up prize. The 50-year-old is a 15-time world champion and is the odds-on favourite again to win the PDC World Championship currently taking place in London. No darts player has ever reached the first three before and Taylor's ascent will provide further hope of mainstream inclusion.
Inevitably, not everyone was happy. One sport, in particular seemed to be seething. The big surprise of the night was that no golfer featured in the first three, despite having the US Open champion, Graeme McDowell and the world No 1, Lee Westwood, in the 10 nominees.
Ian Poulter, the world no 10, vented his anger by tweeting: "BBC SPOTY farce – sorry how could @Graeme_McDowell or @WestwoodLee not win? GMac wins a major, Westy world no 1. That's bollox." Later he added: "Darts comes second in the BBC SPOTY voting – get a grip... It's called sports personality of the 'year' not 'years'. AP is a legend for sure but he should have won it a couple of years ago. "
However, the game could console itself with two other awards. Colin Montgomerie was named coach of the year and for the sixth time the European Ryder Cup winners won team of the year. Saying that, Montgomerie's award did raise eyebrows on the range, particularly as Pete Cowen, the coach of Westwood, McDowell and the Open champion, Louis Oosthuizen, was in the audience and didn't even make the shortlist.
Montgomerie, the Europe captain, is not known for his technical know-how and maybe this led Paul Lawrie the former Open champion and a fellow Scot, to tweet: "Didn't know Monty was a coach. Must ask him for a lesson..."
Back in the vast auditorium, David Beckham was the inevitable showstopper. The 35-year-old received the lifetime achievement award and with his wife, Victoria, and their three children in the audience, Beckham was in tears as he accepted the award off Sir Bobby Charlton and Ryan Giggs. "I'm obviously really humbled," he said. "To receive the award from Sir Bobby Charlton, who was there when I started at Old Trafford, was a true honour. I have been lucky enough to have played for some of the great teams – Preston, Manchester United, Real Madrid, Milan and LA Galaxy and of course playing for England."
Beckham went on to thank Sir Alex Ferguson, who he called "a father figure". The United manager, himself, felt obliged to temporarily abandon his policy of not talking to the BBC by joining the likes of Prince William in recording a video message of support.
Full list of winners
* Sports Personality of the Year: A P McCoy
* Lifetime Achievement award: David Beckham
* Coach of the Year: Colin Montgomerie
* Team of the Year: European Ryder Cup side
* Overseas Sports Personality: Rafael Nadal
* Unsung Sports Hero: Lance Haggith (basketball coach)
* Young Sports Personality: Tom Daley
* Helen Rollason Award: Sir Frank Williams