A. P. McCoy, now Sir Anthony McCoy, isn’t a legend of horse racing – he’s The legend of horse racing.
After 19 consecutive years as Champion Jockey, Being A. P. follows him in his quest for his 20th championship amidst speculation this could be his final year.
When the season gets off to an incredible start with his fastest ever 50 winners, a record breaking 300 winners in a season becomes a real possibility. This throws up the question which any successful sports person finds difficult to answer, harder still for the greatest jump jockey of all time.
When is it a good time to retire?
This won’t be an easy decision. As A.P. admits at the start of the film:
It’s like being an addict. I’m an addict to my way of life.
This sets the theme for the action to follow. The film gives race fans an insight into the harsh reality of A.P.’s life as a jump jockey: the hot baths, relentless work schedule, bone crunching falls, and the overriding fear of losing. He thrives on it. This is someone who lives by the theory that pain is temporary, losing is permanent.
In a session with his physiotherapist he explains that he wants her to fix him, as a mechanic would repair a car, but she’s quick to point out that mechanics don’t work with old bangers. Sore from being stepped on by a horse, her advice to him is simple. ‘Don’t fall off‘.
A.P. is driven by his own numerical goals. He sets himself a target of 20 winners in May. When he hits it with time to spare, he increases it to 30. What if he doesn’t hit 30 in May? He’ll feel like a failure. This is the psychological profile of a champion.
But when the season has started so well, the dream of 300 winners is ended by a serious injury which will take time to heal, and time away from the track does not go down well with A.P. With the support of his wife Chanelle, we witness his mental turmoil as he reaches the hardest decision of his career – to retire at the end of the season.
The countdown to the end of the McCoy era begins, and an emotional public announcement is made to a stunned crowd of onlookers following his 200th winner of the season.
McCoy’s last winner at the Cheltenham festival is something to savour. He wants to walk into the winner’s enclosure one more time and punch the air, but race after race ends in disappointment. A.P.’s fans and fellow jockeys want it just as much as he does. The win doesn’t come until the penultimate day of the festival, and is all the more satisfying for the wait.
All too soon his final day as a jockey arrives with the season finale at Sandown, when he’s crowned Champion Jockey for the 20th time. At this late point in the film we’re given an additional clue to what made him the dominant force in horse racing for two decades – the need to feel in control of everything in his life. Alongside glimpses of childhood photos, this only serves to whet our appetite for an encore.
If Being A.P. covers his final year, let’s hope the preceding years will now be captured in a prequel. It would certainly ease the withdrawal symptoms for McCoy’s fans. Please, Sir, can we have some more?
Video: You Tube – TIFF trailers