Sir Tony McCoy thought he was the victim of a practical joke when he first received news of his knighthood in the Queen’s New Year Honours list.
The 41-year-old former jockey officially retired at the end of April when he brought the curtain down on a spectacular 23-year National Hunt career.
He is only the second jockey in history to have been awarded a knighthood, with Sir Gordon Richards the first in 1953.
McCoy, though, admitted a sense of incredulity when he gained notification of the honour for services to horseracing.
“It was a couple of weeks ago I got the news,” he said.
“I was just about to go into a charity event, in London, and quickly browsing through my emails – and there was this message from the Home Office.
“I read it again. And then I read it again. Even then, I was wondering whether it might be some kind of hoax.
“They had asked me to call this number, and I was wondering which practical joker would be on the line.
“To be considered worthy of the same recognition as Sir Gordon is something that is going to take a long time to sink in.”
McCoy counted 31 Cheltenham Festival winners, as well as two Gold Cups and one famous Grand National success, among his big-race haul.
He was also crowned champion jockey for 20 consecutive seasons, with the trophy decommissioned and awarded to him permanently at the end of the last campaign.
Even in retirement, McCoy hopes his knighthood will have a galvanizing effect on racing.
He said: “I do hope the news will reflect well on our sport.
“I owe racing so much. After all, being knighted will not be the first time I meet the Queen.
“I have even been in the procession of carriages at Royal Ascot. She is so knowledgeable, and I think her interest is incredibly valuable to racing.”