The 15-times champion jockey became the first representative of his sport to win the prestigious accolade, proof that winning the Grand National, as McCoy did on Don't Push It, carries a deeper resonance than two decades of cracking the whip on a Tuesday afternoon at Plumpton.
By the time the voting phone lines opened at 7pm, the Northern Irishman had been backed down to 8-15 favourite a familiar feeling for a man who has ridden more than 3,000 winners.
Man of the moment: Tony McCoy
McCoy on Twitter. Thank you everyone for all your votes and support,also to all the horses and people who made it possible.An amazing once in a lifetime night.
After taking part in 13,000 races the equivalent ofone-and-a-quarter times around the Earth it was the emotion ofMcCoy's National triumph on the Jonjo O'Neill-trained Don't Push It atAintree in April which brought him into the realm of mainstream sport.
McCoy said: 'This is an unbelievable feeling to be standing in frontof so many amazing sports people and so many people I look up to andwatch on television.
'It's not something you ever think will happen in your life, so tobe standing in front of them holding such a prestigious trophy is asurreal feeling.
Icon: David Beckham accepts his Lifetime Achievement award
'I work [with people] in the wonderful world of horse racing, so Iwant to thank every one of them because they must have spent most ofthe evening voting for me.'
McCoy romped home, collecting 293,000 votes, 41 per cent of thosecast and more than 211,000 ahead of surprise runner-up, 15-time dartsworld champion Phil Taylor. Heptathlete Jessica Ennis came third forthe second successive year.
At least the Arctic conditions gripping Britain allowed McCoy a rare day and night of celebration.
He added: 'I shouldn't be proud of saying this, but luckily theweather abandoned the meeting at Carlisle today and I was supposed tobe racing tomorrow at either Ffos Las in Wales or Taunton, and theweather put paid to that as well.
'I love what I do and I've been lucky enough to be champion jockeysince I started riding. I would like to think that I will never betaking part in my sport when I am not champion jockey.
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'That puts in me a position to say that I will still be championjockey when I do call it a day, and that is not going to be easy to do.'
'I want to keep going now. I want to keep at the top of my sport. I don't know how long I will go on - time is the enemy of any sportsperson.
'I have been lucky enough to be champion jockey for 15 years, 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.'
McCoy was paid the ultimate compliment by Flat racing equivalentFrankie Dettori, who said: 'In my lifetime, I don't think we'll eversee anyone like him again.'
The show is a glitz-filled jamboree, a sporting gig in a concert venue.
By taking it around the country Birmingham's LG Arena played hostlast night the BBC is endeavouring to maintain the enthusiasm of itslive audience.
Of the 10 contenders for the main award, only Graeme Swann excusedby being 12,000 miles away on Ashes duty and David Haye, who wasunmarked by Audley Harrison last month but laid low by flu this week,were absent.
The Lifetime Achievement Award went to a misty-eyed David Beckham,accompanied by wife Victoria and sons Romeo, Brooklyn and Cruz.
Beckham, 35, who was presented with his trophy by Sir BobbyCharlton, said: 'I'm humbled to receive an award for something I lovedoing. To receive it from Sir Bobby, who was there when I firststarted, I am deeply honoured.
Three cheers: Tom Daley, winner of the Young Sports Personality of the Year award for a record third time
'This year I went to Afghanistan and I saw for myself the bravery of our troops out there.
'They risk their lives day in, day out to make our country better, so I dedicate my award to them.'
Asked what he would hope to be commended for in 20 years' time, Beckham added: 'I think I would be proud to receive another one like this, just to be the ambassador I have been in the last two years for my country, because it's a role that I never expected to enjoy as much as I have done, and it's a role I never thought I would be in.
'All I was interested in was playing football. To be representing my country, not just for football but for other things such as the Olympics, I'm really touched that I get asked to be involved in things like that.
'So to receive an award like this now. while it's great to receive a lifetime achievement award at 35 and obviously be still playing, I'm not finished yet.
'I love playing the game. Everybody knows how much I love playing the game. And I still believe I can play at the highest level. So I have no interest in stopping yet.'
A glowing tribute was paid to Beckham by Prince William, presidentof the Football Association, who said: 'His contribution to Englishfootball in 18 years has been exceptional.
'During his career he has had highs and lows but he has always remained determined.
'Former Real Madrid team-mate Zinedine Zidane added: 'He is a greatfootballer and I think an even better person. It was a joy to play withhim.'
Europe's thrilling Ryder Cup triumph at Celtic Manor in earlyOctober brought home two more accolades to add to the gold trophycommissioned in 1927 by Samuel Ryder.
Trio of stars: Winner McCoy is flanked by runner-up Phil Talyor (right) and third place Jessica Ennis
Both captain Colin Montgomerie and his team were honoured Monty asCoach of the Year, while his merry band of men, including the 12players and vice-captains, predictably picked up the Team of the Yearaward.
Clutching the Ryder Cup, Montgomerie said: 'It was a lot easier than playing.
'It was the first event I'd ever gone to without my clubs and itdoes help, especially when you know the 12 who have been selected arebetter than you are. It was a delight, an honour to captain them.'
Of the other awards, Tom Daley won the Young Sports Personalityaward for the third and final time. Age restrictions mean he will nolonger be eligible in 2011.
Wimbledon champion Rafael Nadal, who also won the French and US Open titles, was named as Overseas Personality.
McCoy on course for award as racing world hopes for recognition at lastTony McCoy: I'm driven by the fear of no longer being championNick Metcalfe: It's AP for me - but who's your Sports Personality of the Year?McCoy favourite to land BBC Sports Personality of the Year
Explore more:People: Phil Taylor, Jessica Ennis, David Beckham, Colin Montgomerie, David Haye, Zinedine Zidane, Tom Daley, Rafael Nadal Places: Birmingham, Afghanistan, Wales, Europe Organisations: Football Association