CHAMPION jockey Tony McCoy is remaining at his baby son's bedside following a vital heart operation, despite the looming Cheltenham racing festival.
The Antrim man spent the weekend with wife Chanelle and seven-month-old Archie as his son recovered from cardiac surgery on Friday.
The infant is thought to be making good progress, but for the moment his famous dad is staying put.
The 39-year-old said preparations for the Cheltenham Festival, which gets underway tomorrow, had been challenging and thanked friends and family for their support.
"I must admit that my personal build-up to this Cheltenham Festival, the 19th of my career, has been the most difficult," the record-breaking rider revealed in his Saturday newspaper column.
"Yesterday [Friday] my wife Chanelle and I spent the day in the Portland Hospital with our seven-month-old son Archie, who underwent cardiac surgery.
"As any parent will know the health of their children is paramount.
"Archie had recently been diagnosed with a bronchial tube narrowing, which was restricting the air flow to and from his lung.
"At the Portland, he is in the good hands of cardiologist Professor John Deanfield.
"Consequently, though I intend to ride at Sandown today, I will not be riding tomorrow or Monday as I will be with Chanelle and Archie in hospital.
"I would probably have taken the days off to freshen up for Cheltenham anyway.
"Deepest thanks to our friends and family for the great support we have had over this."
Archie is AP and Chanelle's second child.
The couple also have a seven-year-old daughter named Eve.
Both children were born after IVF treatment.
Speaking at the weekend about his career, AP explained why he called himself a "bully" in his recent book, My Autobiography, and said that fatherhood had mellowed him.
Outlining an 18-year rollercoaster of emotions, ranging from total confidence to plaguing self-doubt, he said it sometimes led to him being a "control freak".
"Yes I am a bit of a control freak, so I am," he said.
"I like being in control of everything. I need to be in control.
"It was a case of, when I wasn't having a good time, when things weren't going right, I had to control everything around me to make sure that everyone else was being affected, or suffering, the same way I was."
In My Autobiography, AP said that during this period he would pick arguments.
At one time he said he became fixated with the idea that Chanelle sometimes smoked.
She had promised to stop, he explained, but one day at a party, he caught her.
Furious, he told her the relationship was over, told her to pack her stuff, drove her to the station and left her on the platform.
He waited for a while, then came back a few minutes later and told her she could get back in the car.
"What a sh*t I was," he wrote. "What a bully.
"What a control freak."
He says he's mellowed since then, and that the reason, at least partly, is having children.
"I find it a lot easier to come home and forget about what happened during the day," he said.
Speaking about the Cheltenham Festival, McCoy said he is likely to ride Gilgamboa for Enda Bolger in the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle that gets the meeting underway on Tuesday.
Tony McCoy has broken so many bones in his body – from his back to every part of his fractured frame – that he is fortunate to still be riding. He suffered one of his worst injuries in April last year, falling at Cheltenham, but he made his wife Chanelle swear not to tell anyone that he was seriously ill in hospital for seven days. He had an epidural in his back and was in intensive care for six days, unable to race for his longest spell ever – a total of 27 days.