The sport put a jump in McCoy’s step
The star of Being AP will miss the buzz that came with 4,300 wins
Standing in front of a packed theatre on Monday night, Anthony McCoy — in a dark three-piece suit, with neatly cropped hair and a radiant smile — looked every bit the movie star, in town to promote his new film at TIFF.
But a closer look at the Irishman’s face reveals someone who for the past two decades has, in his own words, lived with an addiction: an addiction to winning horse races. His gaunt cheeks and the sharp contours of his jawline point to a man who has maintained a svelte 140 pounds despite his five-foot-10 frame.
His eyes are deep-set and hardened from overpowering everything that has stood in his way — equine foes, fellow riders, treacherous obstacles — en route to the winner’s circle. A.P. McCoy has cheated death more times than he’d probably like to count on his mission to become the greatest steeplechase jockey the world has ever seen — and perhaps will ever see.
McCoy, 41, hung up his saddle in April, ending a remarkable career in which he rode more winners (4,300) and more horses than any of his contemporaries, earning 20 consecutive National Hunt Champion Jump Jockey titles.
British filmmaker and director Anthony Wonke was granted exclusive access into McCoy’s final season as a professional jockey and his agonizing decision to retire from the only job he’s ever had in a sport he dominated. The result is the documentary Being AP, which made its world premiere here Monday night, and offers an intimate look at the daily struggles of the world’s top jockey — and the toll that career and the racing lifestyle has on a family.
Being AP follows McCoy as he attempts to win 300 races in the 201415 racing season, but suffers a serious injury that ultimately dashes that dream, leading to his decision to walk away from race riding. But for McCoy, it was not an easy settlement. For a man so competitive, so singularly focused on winning, the film also explores the question of how an athlete walks away from a sport that has defined him for more than half of his life.
Some believe McCoy is the most accomplished athlete in British sport, on champion titles alone. McCoy rode his first winner in a flat race in Ireland at the age of 17, but switched to jump riding after he grew too tall for flat racing. In 2010, after15 attempts, McCoy won the Grand National, horseracing’s most storied steeplechase, and in the same year became the first jockey to be award- ed BBC Sportsperson of the Year, the sign of British sporting stardom.
But McCoy’s body has paid the price. Over his career, he has suffered broken shoulder blades, broken ribs, punctured lungs, broken cheekbones, chipped teeth and concussions from falling from his mount during races, sometimes being trampled by his own horse or another runner.
At one point in the film, McCoy’s wife, Chanelle, reveals that there have been times her husband has been thrown from a horse in one race and ridden in the next race, with no recollection of the latter.
But for McCoy, the battle wounds come with the territory of being the best in the sport.
McCoy suffered broken ribs, a punctured lung and a broken collarbone (for the second time in his career) from a serious fall at Worcester Racecourse last October, injuries that ended his chance to eclipse his own season wins record (289).
It was then that the father of two came to the realization that the race he was never going to win was the
“I love racing, and I’m probably the only person who is going to miss bouncing off the floor.” A.P. MCCOY JOCKEY
one against time.
In February, after winning aboard McManus’ Mr Mole at Newbury Racecourse in England, McCoy announced he would retire from riding, sending shockwaves through the international racing community.
“I want to go out while I still enjoy riding and am still relatively at the top,” he told reporters after the race. “I love racing, and I’m probably the only person who is going to miss bouncing off the floor . . . I know I am never going to find anything to replace that buzz.”
A.P. McCoy, left, had 20 straight National Hunt Champion Jump Jockey titles, and won the Grand National in 2010.