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Cheltenham Festival: Champ comes from the clouds to win a thriller

Happy as Barry: Geraghty is congratulated after his brilliant ride PICTURE: PA/REUTERS

CHAMP, reputedly named after AP McCoy, lived up to his moniker as Barry Geraghty produced one of the special Cheltenham Festival rides to win the RSA Insurance Novices’ Chase.

Almost ten lengths down at the last, the 4/1 chance began to eat up the ground and what had looked impossible started to seem inevitable half a furlong from home, as he powered between Irish raiders Minella Indo and Allaho to win by a length.

Geraghty said: ‘I thought I had no chance jumping the last but three strides later I was starting to smell the money. This is a great race. Any of the Grade Ones are special at the Festival. You long for them.’

He added of how the gelding came to be named: ‘There is a bit of confusion over his name, whether it is AP (McCoy) or Kieran McManus (son of owner JP McManus), who has won a few Dunhill Links, so there is a possible clash there. I’m not sure.’

Paddy Power make Champ a 14/1 shot for next year’s Gold Cup.

Geraghty, trainer Nicky Henderson and McManus were soon celebrating again as the well-backed Dame De Compagnie pounced at the last to win the Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle.

The unexposed mare was sent off the 5/1 favourite on the back of an easy win in December and she had two-and-a-quarter lengths to spare over Gordon Elliott’s Black Tears.

Henderson said: ‘In that sort of field, you have to have a bit of luck and you have to be in the right place at the right time to get the breaks. She was good enough and she had the gears.’