This blog post is part of a summer-long series of posts written by Humanities Blogger, Kristen Costa. Check back weekly to get a fresh, informative look at the themes explored in the films we’ll be showing as part of the newportFILM Outdoors series, presented by Lila Delman Real Estate International.
AP McCoy (also known as Tony McCoy) has over 4300 wins in his over 20-year career as a jockey in the United Kingdom. He is one of the best jump jockeys in the history of horse racing, and arguably one of the best sportsmen in England. Being A.P follows McCoy’s final racing season in 2014-2015, as he pursues his 20th title and grapples with injuries, family, and his impending retirement.
It’s amazing to think of McCoy’s career in contrast to other jockeys in the horse racing field, where most jockeys are younger, weigh less, and are shorter than McCoy, who is 5’10”. The average height for most jockeys is between 4’10” and 5’6”, with an average weight around 116 pounds. McCoy literally stands out among his peers and is anomaly not just for his height, but for his age too, racing past his 40th birthday.
AP McCoy embodies the ‘no fear’ requirement of horse racing. It is not uncommon for riders to be regularly thrown off their horses and seriously injured. The fearless personality, love of adrenaline, and need for speed is crucial to any jockey’s success, as one never knows when the next fall could be a fatal one. In his long career of many wins, AP McCoy has endured many losses and broken bones in the process.
Jockeys are incredibly disciplined, patient people, both in their personal training and how they work with the horses they race. It is not just about physical strength and being in good shape, but also about having the temperament and confidence needed to ride a horse and control it at high rates of speed. All jockeys must also weigh-in prior to every race to make sure they meet the minimum weight requirements. Because of this, there is a high prevalence of eating-related disorders and unhealthy behaviors to maintain weight or to lose it fast, as this can have an impact on the horse’s performance and overall race.
The majority of jockeys in horse racing around the globe are men. The sport has been widely dominated by sexism for female jockeys. In fact, women were banned from horse racing in the United Kingdom until 1972. In the United States, Diane Crump was the first female jockey to ride in the Kentucky Derby in 1970. In recent years, female rider Rosie Napravnik ran in the 2013 Kentucky Derby, finishing a respectable fifth place.
For more information on this week’s newportFILM Outdoors screening of Being AP, visit bit.ly/BeingAPDoc.
The Humanities Blog Series is made possible through major funding support from the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities, an independant affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. The Council seeds, supports, and strengthens public history, cultural heritage, civic education, and community engagement by and for all Rhode Islanders.