A LITTLE after three o'clock on Saturday the map of the racing world was suddenly redrawn by the man who has rewritten our sporting history.on Saturday AP McCoy's announcement that he is to exit the weighing room for the final time on April 25 rocked racing's landscape like an earthquake.
His numbers are astonishing and if jumping endures for another thousand years they will remain simply unassailable. More than 4,300 winners, a serene progress to a 20th consecutive jockeys' title, and Saturday on Mr Mole the ninth time he has ridden 200 winners in a season.
But statistics alone do not define him and it is impossible to overstate how unfillable will be the void he leaves when he bows out.
Of course we will miss him wreaking his mad magic on a daily basis as from gaff track to festival fleshpot he boots home the good, simply ordinary or plain unwilling. He has always been great at changing the mind of the ones who don't fancy it.
But we will regret more than the professional passing of a jockey. For all the congregation who form the magnificently broad church of jumping, McCoy has become part of life's furniture - not some vacuous celebrity but that epochal rarity, a genuine sporting hero.
It is partly about his longevity in the only job where two ambulances follow you round every time you go to work, but it is also admiration for the savagery of the regime he puts himself through.
When AP gets out of one of his famously hot baths, Chanelle puts a couple of eggs in the water and they are cooked for the kids' breakfast in four minutes.
Time and again after one of his more hideous falls we have seen him haul himself gingerly to his feet, pale of face but implacable of will, and you know he is already suppressing the pain and refusing to let it upset the rhythm of getting back in the saddle again.
There has always been something very slightly unhinged about AP. His almost malevolent pursuit of winners borders on what I can only describe as the admirably psychotic.
Truth be told the bone-rattling - and fracturing - injuries have taken more shrugging off over the last two or three years and the Worcester crunch in October that dashed his dream of 300 winners inflicted a deep mental wound, although he masked it with his usual poker face.
AP has always been driven by targets and he admitted that when the 300 vaporised "it kind of broke my heart".
He is venerated by his weighing-room colleagues and revered by the public. And over the next ten weeks we will have endless opportunities to thank him. It took McCoy a few years to understand how much racing people loved him but he gets it now and there is bound to be a massive outpouring of affectionate gratitude between now and Sandown's Jumps Finale at the end of April.
We are in for a long list of ‘last times' at Cheltenham, Aintree and Punchestown. But at every course from Fontwell to Ffos Las, Carlisle to Kelso the farewell tour will roll on as AP makes his long goodbye.
All we want is a safe denouement to the most extraordinary career the sport has known and for McCoy to get out in one piece. Or just the various bits he is in already with no more added please.
His wife Chanelle said on Saturday: "He's had good days and bad days dealing with the decision." How true that must be. Scratch AP and he bleeds like the rest of us and if there has ever been one thing that genuinely frightened him it has been the terror of retirement and when the hour would strike.
There will be all sorts of mental contortions and agonies over the next two and half months but that is inevitable. For over 20 years his life has been ferociously focused on riding winners often to the exclusion of everything and everyone else.
By his own admission it used to make him nigh on impossible to live with but he has incalculable assets to make a difficult transition easier to bear - a happy marriage and two bundles of trouble he adores without reservation in Eve and Archie.
After he won the Gold Cup on Synchronised, late in the evening while the rest of the lads were getting upended on champagne in the weighing room, AP was taking on the little force of nature Eve in running races round the paddock. And I'll bet he wasn't off and let her win.
And if you want to get full value from AP's last hurrah then make the point of going to see him in action and adding your voice to the chorus of cheers and applause.
Here we have a man unlike any other who has walked the earth and slung leg across horse. We have not merely been enriched by his hard genius but we owe him an enormous debt of gratitude for the heights to which he has taken us and the faultless manner in which he conducts himself. Brilliance and unique achievement never wore a more modest face.
It was not without a small tremor as the news sank in that I began to think of how different jump racing is going to be without our very own lion in winter. As AP talked to the press yesterday he suddenly began to find it all rather emotional and cut it short with a simple "I've got to go lads".
Let's make sure by the time he departs he knows in every corner of his being that never has a jockey been held in such esteem and affection marbled through with no small degree of awe.
AP is the unsurpassable riding phenomenon of our time and all the ages. And having him on our watch has been a pleasure and a fantastic privilege.