What are you doing Thursday night? If you live anywhere near Wilmington, Del., get to Theatre N and see "Being AP." The documentary chronicles the last season of jump jockey Tony McCoy's career.
McCoy, if you don't know, was the dominant jockey in English/Irish National Hunt Racing and arguably the most dominant athlete of his time no matter the sport.
Born in Northern Ireland, he won 20 consecutive jockey championships starting with the 1995-96 season and continuing through his final season 2014-15. The 102-minute movie, from BBC Films, covers that final season with detail thanks to an all-access feel that includes scenes from races, morning training, the jockeys' room and extensive interviews with McCoy and the people in his life. Directed by British filmmaker Anthony Wonke and produced by Nick Ryle, John Woollcombe, and Alan Maher for Moneyglass Films, the documentary follow McCoy to his home (with his wife Chanelle and their two children), to the dentist, to the doctor, to the massage therapist and of course to the races.
Early in the film, McCoy talks about being "an addict" to winning. He fed the addiction a steady dose, setting pretty much every record there was to set. In 2002-03, he won 289 races in a single season. That same year, he passed Richard Dunwoody's mark for career wins and simply kept going. McCoy won his 2,500th race in 2006, reached 3,000 in 2009. Number 4,000 came in 2013.
The beat continued on in 2014-15. McCoy reached 50 winners just 44 days into the season, the fastest ever, then got to 100 and 150 faster than anyone. Three-hundred was on the table. The thought of riding long enough to win 5,000 was too.
Then he hurt his shoulder in a fall, rode through it for a bit, fell again and went to the sidelines. The movie covers all that - the success, the pain, the doubt, the beginning of retirement discussions.
His shoulder "deserves to be punished" for letting the rest of him down, McCoy says. At another point, he says "Every part of my life was structured and controlled, but I could never control gettin' old."
Nobody can, though McCoy did it better than most.
Over a dinner out, Chanelle brings up retirement. McCoy shuts it down, even if you can feel him feeling it too.
Recovered and healthy again, he returns to the saddle and chases another championship. The cameras catch it all - including his 200th win of the season aboard Mr Mole in the Game Spirit Chase at Newbury. It's Feb. 7, 2015, and (while still aboard the horse) McCoy tells the Channel 4 audience he won't ever reach 200 again. He'll ride out the season, but that will be it. Watching the film, you know the decision is coming but it's still a powerful sporting moment and fellow jockey Ruby Walsh's reaction is worth the ticket price itself.
At times stark and sad, and always intense, the film moves with the pace of a jockey's life - slow on occasion, way too fast at others and with the lurking sense of danger. There are celebrations after victories, frustrations after defeats. There are quiet car rides to the next race meeting. There are jumps and falls and stretch drives and fist-pumping finish-line shots.
The footage in the jocks' room - full of gaunt men in deep thought - packs power. You feel the reverence for McCoy. You get the impact he has. You also get a taste of what it's like to ride National Hunt horses for a living.
Once the retirement announcement comes, the film follows McCoy's short farewell tour to the Cheltenham Festival, a Grand National ride at Aintree and finally the end at Sandown in April. No, he doesn't win that last race but he leaves as a champion.
Oh, to have been there.
There's more to it, but see the film. Being AP is out on DVD, but there's nothing like the big screen and the sound system to bring it to life.
The last of four Theatre N (1007 N. Orange St.) shows is Thursday at 7 p.m.
Organizers plan a summer tour of North America including the final show in Wilmington Thursday, a stop at Toronto's Early Mercy theatre Tuesday and a screening in Los Angeles at the Crest Theatre Wednesday. The movie was shown at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival. For more, see the film website.
McCoy is the president of the UK's Injured Jockeys Fund, and a percentage of proceeds from the theatrical run of Being AP will be donated to benefit injured and disabled jockeys via the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Foundation (USA) and The Jockeys Benefit Association of Canada. Both organizations provide financial assistance to jockeys who have suffered catastrophic injuries while on-track, The Toronto event will also benefit Horses Help Canada, which help autistic and other special needs and at-risk youth work through issues using horses for therapy.