AP namesake off to ideal start
A review of Tuesday's action at Southwell, where a horse named after Sir AP McCoy made a winning debut.
Barry Geraghty rode a winner named in honour of AP McCoy as Champ dotted up
Nicky Henderson did his best to dampen the hype after Champ made an impressive start to his career at Southwell.
The JP McManus-owned five-year-old is named in honour of 20-times champion jockey Sir Anthony McCoy, who carried the same green and gold silks to many a big-race success.
The son of King's Theatre was a prohibitively priced 8/15 favourite for the second division of the grandnational2017.com Maiden Open NH Flat Race and after travelling strongly throughout in the hands of Barry Geraghty, readily pulled three and a half lengths clear of the staying-on Grey Warbler.
Bookmakers reacted by trimming Champ to around 20/1 for the Champion Bumper, but an appearance at the Cheltenham Festival is unlikely, according to his trainer.
Henderson said: "I suppose it's a name they've been holding back for a while and he is a very good-looking horse with a very good pedigree.
"He did it well, but he is still a big baby. I think he'd want to be doing something like that again before we think about doing anything too grown-up.
"I wouldn't be thinking of Cheltenham myself. I spoke to Barry after the race and I think he'd rather keep him low-profile for the time being.
"He should really be over hurdles, but he wasn't doing what I was expecting him to be doing earlier in the season. I wasn't all that happy with him at Christmas.
"He's done masses of schooling and we can go novice hurdle next season and chasing later on. He has his whole life ahead of him.
"He's still the undefeated Champ, but he's not a champ yet."
The first division of the race had seen a dead-heat between the Fergal O'Brien-trained Aye Aye Charlie (100/30) and Evan Williams' The Last Day (20/1).
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Elsewhere, there was to be no fairytale ending to Keith Reveley's training career at the Newark circuit.
The Reveley training dynasty, which has been synonymous with northern National Hunt racing for over 30 years, will no longer be a feature on British racecards after Keith revealed earlier this season he was to hand in his licence at the end of January.
He sent out two runners on his final day, with Midnight Moss a creditable third behind Champ.
Reveley's final runner was Redkalani in the concluding grandnational2017.com Handicap Hurdle, but he was well-beaten a long way from home.
Reveley said: "It's been great, but it's time to finish.
"I'll still be following the game and be going racing now and again.
"Gillian Boanas will be holding the licence and hopefully she will start to run them in about a fortnight's time.
"Nothing will change. I'll take over looking after the youngsters. We've got about 20 young horses we've bred.
"The wife breaks them in and we'll bring them on and maybe even run them in point-to-points to set them off and see if they are good enough.
"We've got plenty to look forward to."
Looking back on his career, he added: "The two main highlights for me would be Rambling Minster winning at Cheltenham on New Year's Day (2009) with James (Reveley, son) riding. That was a brilliant day, and probably Night In Milan winning the Grimthorpe Chase at Doncaster (in March 2014).
"We've had some great days, but those two stand out."
Also at Southwell, Its'afreebie was a drifting and disappointing favourite for the opening grandnational2017.com Novices' Chase, which went instead to Pearl Swan at 15/8.
Now with Peter Bowen having become frustrating in the care of Paul Nicholls, he drew clear on the bridle to win by 33 lengths from 50/1 outsider Jack In A Box, taking his record to two wins in six starts for his new yard.
Un Prophete had no trouble defying a penalty for Venetia Williams, having made a winning debut over fences at Ludlow six days earlier.
Sent off an even-money favourite for the grandnational2017.com Handicap Chase, the grey shrugged off not just the penalty but a huge weight to cruise to a six-length success and could turn out again at Chepstow this weekend.
For the second time in as many starts over timber, Listen To The Man was a beaten odds-on favourite as the grandnational2017.com Novices' Hurdle went to 7/2 shot Louis' Vac Pouch.
The Oscar gelding has showed steady progress through his first two starts over hurdles and could be spotted travelling best turning for home, eventually winning by close to four lengths despite a mistake at the last.
Lady Buttons was another winner under top weight and a penalty at she coped fine with a step up in trip to take the grandnational2017.com Handicap Hurdle as 5/4 favourite, while the finale went to 11-year-old 11/2 chance Finish The Story.
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