What a finish! Champ shows incredible late speed to blast from third (and out of the camera shot) to first place as he wins the RSA Novice’s Chase at Cheltenham in style
Young Archie McCoy will have quite a tale to tell his friends when he returns to school this morning after being given the day off.
The six-year-old son of AP will be able to relate how he was thrust centre stage at Cheltenham, with the horse named after his famous father — Champ — surging to a sensational win on day two of the Festival. He can recount how he was handed the trophy for the RSA Insurance Novices’ Chase, having watched it goggle-eyed in the parade ring flanked by Zara Tindall, Princess Anne and his mother Chanelle.
Among the details will be the television appearance, and the high-five he received from the owner, JP McManus (below).
Barry Geraghty rode Champ (middle) to victory in dramatic fashion on day two at Cheltenham
There were joyous celebrations at the end as Geraghty celebrated another win at the Festival
Then there was the fist pump in his direction from his unusually animated dad, swivelling from his studio position with the ITV presenters. McCoy Snr, part of the huge McManus racing apparatus, was soon holding his son in his arms before the cameras, while the whole of Cheltenham hummed with delight.
And it was all because Barry Geraghty had produced a ride reminiscent of McCoy’s dramatic effort on Wichita Lineman 11 years ago.
When Geraghty cleared the last, he was still nine lengths behind Allaho and Minella Indo, with in-running odds against him of 399-1. The remarkable late burst that allowed him to break through the gap explained why, of all his horses, McManus chose to name this one after the great jockey. Champ has a special place in the McCoy family’s affections, explained Chanelle later, which is why Archie gets to skip school every now and then to watch him. A gilded youth indeed.
‘It’s probably the only horse that he has a keen interest in,’ said his mother. ‘He is very lucky that Mr McManus has let him collect the trophy on a few occasions and he has a collection of them. He has a very special affection towards the horse, because Champ was stabled in our yard for about nine months.’
Geraghty and trainer Nicky Henderson (left) smiled for photos after their dramatic late win
It was quite a scene and very different from Cheltenham on New Year’s Day, when Champ suffered a heavy fall. ‘He (Archie) loved it on the podium as he was here on New Year’s Day when the horse fell and he was upset,’ she added. ‘He knows the horse was named after AP as a lot of the jockeys used to call him Champ when he was riding.’ It had not been the slickest display of jumping, and McCoy himself admitted he was never confident.
‘I was surprised he struggled so much off the bend,’ he said. ‘But the one thing I thought was that he would really stay, and that’s what he has done today.’
The turbo-charged finish contributed to what has been an excellent first half of the Festival for Geraghty.
While Champ had reason to cheer, it was a frustrating race for Harry Cobden and Copperhead
‘He is a gorgeous horse, definitely one for the future. It was a great performance to get back from a compromised position,’ Geraghty said of Champ. ‘As he got going, I could see they were tiring (in front). It was brilliant.
‘He was on the back foot all the way, the ground was very tacky. He is an intelligent horse. I thought I had no chance jumping the last, but about three strides later I was starting to smell the money.’
Once he had finished rubbing his eyes in disbelief, trainer Nicky Henderson was able to express his astonishment.
‘It looked like he was going to finish an honourable third,’ he said. ‘I was watching the other two and he suddenly came into sight. He is a horse with a wonderful temperament.’