Being AP – FIlm Review by Frank L.
Director: Anthony Wonke
Stars: Tony McCoy
AP McCoy is unique. He won the British National Hunt Jockey Championship for twenty consecutive years from 1995/96 to 2014/15. In May 2014, Wonke decided to film him for a documentary which, at the time, was just going to be another all- conquering year for AP. He was as determined as ever to ride winners. Indeed he was as needy and indeed greedy as ever to win the jockeys’ title again. He had already in November 2013 become the first jockey to ride 4,000 winners. But there were other firsts to be achieved. On 18th July 2014 with 4,191 winners he exceeded the number of winners which his long time boss Martin Pipe had set as a trainer. He was riding winners at a terrific clip; he notched up his fastest first 100 winners. He therefore set himself a new target of riding 300 winners in the championship year. His previous best had been 289.
Wonke apart from showing the familiar sight of AP booting home winners shows him with his agent and in the weigh room with his fellow jockeys. In addition there are excellent insights given by retired jump jockey, Mick FitzGerald, as to what might be driving AP forward at any particular moment so as to ensure that he would achieve his new ambition. Then disaster strikes in the form of two relatively run of the mill injuries. The 300 target was always going to be difficult to achieve even if AP remained injury free but the injuries and the loss of about five weeks meant that not even AP could achieve it. He had to accept the reality that he was not going to ride 300 winners in a season.
AP has a wife and a daughter and an infant son. In some ways Channelle is the power house in this story. She supports him 100% in his pursuits. She in the most subtle ways brings into his consciousness the fact that he is getting older. She has the guts to mention in his presence the forbidden word “retirement”. It is around the difficult concept of retirement on which the film hinges. It is not possible to over emphasize the enormity of the decision to retire or not to retire was for him. AP has spent his entire life riding over fences, he freely admits he cannot do anything else.
The strength of Wonke’s film is how AP is aware that while he can and has controlled almost everything in his life up to date, he cannot stop the years mounting. That grim fact is not within his control. He has to rationalise that fact with his competitive essence to continue to be the champion that he is and has been for the last nineteen years. This dilemma is what drives this documentary. It may well be that AP’s decision to marry Channelle was the best decision he ever made in his life as she provided a sensitive sounding board as he struggled to make a decision. The documentary is a fine compliment to the two of them. It is also an intelligent and sensitive insight into the pressures, external and internal, which a sportsman must face as the years advance.
Wonke has created a fine documentary which addresses the issue of retirement for a successful sportsman. It was a privilege to observe AP assisted by Channelle struggling with the reality of increasing years.