BEING AP

A movie about AP McCoy

Mats Genberg MICHAEL STEELE/getty images

Making a living from a sport where breaking your body is part of the game, AP McCoy might not strike you as a man of fear. This movie shows us that he is—but in a different way.

Being AP Director: Anthony Wonke Available on DVD/Blueray from amazon.co.uk
Being AP Director: Anthony Wonke Available on DVD/Blueray from amazon.co.uk

Jump racing in the United Kingdom and Ireland is a bit like baseball in the United States: mega-big at home but less understood in other parts of the world.

That is why AP’s name might not ring the biggest bells to people in Hong Kong, the U.S. or Australia, but make no mistake about it, he is a Superstar with a capital S at home. In fact, he is considered one of Britain’s greatest sportsmen. Ever.

AP won 20 (yes, 20!) consecutive UK jockey championships over jumps. That means some of the riders he was competing against in his last seasons were not even born when he won his first title.

Or to put it in another way, he has been the only champion jump jockey for each and every year of their entire lives. It is hard to come up with any other athlete in any other sport in any other country that even comes close.

It comes as no surprise that AP, who retired in April 2015, is now the subject of a full-length documentary that was backed by BBC Films and directed by Anthony Wonke (Fire in the Night, Ronaldo).

”When we first set out to start filming we knew that we had about a year of shooting ahead of us,” says Being AP’s
producer, Nick Ryle. ”We did however not know what sort of a year it was going to be or what the movie would be about. Would it be a story about success, injuries, retirement, failure? Anthony would have to adjust his ideas as time passed.”

 

”Pain is temporary, losing is permanent.”

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It turned out to be a movie about fear. Not fear of falling or getting every bone in the body broken—AP is already as close to a bionic man as they come, with a part-metal skeleton—but fear of not being a champion. Fear of not knowing what lies beyond that next bend in the road of life, when racing is no longer there.

”Pain is temporary, losing is permanent,” as AP’s wife, Chanelle, puts it.

”It’s like being an addict,” AP says at one point in the documentary. Instead of ”just one more drink” or ”just one more bet,” it’s just one more race, one more championship, one more record. AP won a total of 4,348 races. As his agent, Dave Roberts, says in the movie: ”If a new jockey wins 200 races per year for 10 years, he still won’t even have half of your wins.”

Viewers get to follow AP in what became his last season of racing and, ultimately, his 20th consecutive championship. The idea of retirement is not there at all in the beginning. When his wife/soulmate tries to bring the subject up, you get that awkward feeling of ”guess I should leave the room now,” but you can’t. You’re there like a fly on the wall.

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Like other athletes, jockeys need to perform on a regular basis. But they are on their own. No team. No coach. After having passed the 4,000 wins mark in 2013, AP set another goal: to win 300 races in a season.

”It’s all numbers,” he says. ”It’s only ever been about numbers. It was about winning as many winners in as little time as possible.”

That meant riding races every day. Even going to a dinner to accept an award was seen as a waste of time, as it kept him from riding.

”AP will ride any horse that has a chance of winning,” says Dave at one point. ”He will drive for five hours to Newcastle for one ride.”

In the UK, jockeys go from track to track to ride. In the movie, you follow AP as he runs out, in full racing gear, to a waiting helicopter at one track so he is be able to get to the next track, and the next ride, in time. All in all, he gets to ride in 800-1000 races in a season. Keep in mind that jump races are rarely shorter than two miles.

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As the movie goes on, you feel AP’s fear of the unknown getting stronger and stronger. But somewhere along the line it dawns on him that there is something even more frightening lurking in the shadows: the fate of one who did not quit in time.

Or as he puts it himself: ”I want people to ask why I retired, not why I didn’t retire.”

Being Ap is a rare look into the thoughts and life of a top athlete as he makes the ultimate decision. It is also a movie that keeps popping into your mind the day after you have seen it.

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