Champ lives up to his name with storming comeback

Champ proved himself worthy of the name when coming from another parish to win the RSA Insurance Novices' Chase at Cheltenham today.

Trainer Nicky Henderson, left, with jockey Barry Geraghty, and Champ, after winning the RSA Insurance Novices' Chase on Day Two of the Cheltenham Racing Festival. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile
Trainer Nicky Henderson, left, with jockey Barry Geraghty, and Champ, after winning the RSA Insurance Novices' Chase on Day Two of the Cheltenham Racing Festival. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

The Willie Mullins-trained Allaho and Henry De Bromhead’s Minella Indo were sent off the first and second favourite at odds of 5-2 and 3-1 respectively and the slick-jumping pair looked to have it between them for much of the contest.

In contrast, Champ, trained by Nicky Henderson, was untidy at several fences and jockey Barry Geraghty opted to steer a wide course to give his mount a clear view of his obstacles.

He looked a beaten docket two fences from home and even after Allaho and Minella Indo survived scruffy mistakes at the last, victory still seemed impossible.

But AP McCoy, the man after whom Champ is named, famously never knew when he was beaten and his namesake clearly possesses the same will to win, storming up the hill late on to get up between his two tiring rivals and cross the line a length to the good. Victories don’t come more dramatic.

“He was on the back foot all the way, the ground was tacky, and it was hard work,” Geraghty said.

“It was all about finding a bit of nice ground and trying not to ask too many questions early. Nico (de Boinville) and Nicky worked hard to get him where he is — it’s paid dividends today.

“This is a great race — all Grade Ones at the Festival are. I thought I had no chance jumping the last, but three strides later I was starting to smell the money.”

Working as a pundit for ITV, McCoy, whose young son Archie adores what he considers 'his' horse, said: “I was surprised he struggled so much off the bend, but the one thing I thought was he'd really stay and that's what he's done today. That was pretty pleasing.”

Henderson added: “I thought Barry seemed happy enough on the outside for most of the race and it looked to me we were going to finish an honourable third. Then halfway up the run-in, when I was watching the other two in front, he suddenly came into my sights.”

The rest is history.

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