Champion McCoy turns Journeyman

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The Independent Online

In the eyes of the public, there could hardly be a less appropriately named mount for the newly crowned Sports Personality of the Year as he gets back to the day job he so loves. In stark contrast to Sunday night's glittering suited and booted occasion at the NEC, AP McCoy's arena this afternoon is Kempton, a functional racetrack built on a former gravel pit in the London suburb. And his first scheduled ride is on an as yet undistinguished gelding named Journeyman.

The 15-times champion is delighted to be back in action, as will his weighing-room colleagues, even if it is on a card restricted to bumpers, which are flat races for jumping horses. "When the weather closed in," he said yesterday, "the first few days off were quite nice, because I'd had a few falls and I was quite sore. But now it's just depressing as we've missed so many races. Racing is what we all love doing, so the sooner we get back the better."

Staff at Kempton spent yesterday scraping snow and ice off the artificial surface, but with more snow forecast, the meeting, organised to allow jump trainers to give their charges a leg-stretch, is subject to a morning inspection.

Whatever happens today at the Sunbury track, just two miles from beleaguered Heathrow, next week's more important prizes are highly unlikely to be decided, if betting markets are a guide. Ladbrokes make the Boxing Day meeting, featuring the King George VI Chase, a 4-7 shot to be called off.

Sport in Ireland is apparently a better bet; the cards at Leopardstown and Limerick are 5-4 to go ahead. But McCoy may have to wait another year to fulfil another of his ambitions. He has now won all the major Grand Nationals in these isles bar the Welsh version at Chepstow, traditionally held on the day after Boxing Day. But that card, too, is an odds-on shot to fall to the weather.

Should Kempton beat the freeze, Kauto Star, a no longer price than evens to win an unprecedented fifth King George, will face a maximum of 13 rivals, with no surprise absentees among those declared for the William Hill-sponsored Grade One three-miler at yesterday's penultimate stage.

Turf account

Sue Montgomery's Nap

Vertige Dore (1.50 Kempton) Successful and experienced bumper performer for two top yards who reverts to the level after a debut hurdles success.

Next best

Nazreef (2.05 Southwell) Scored by an eased-down 11 lengths over today's course six days ago and his rise in the ratings should not stop a follow-up.

One to watch

Look out for French-bred four-year-old Batonnier (A King) when weather relents.

Hyperion selections


12.50 Journeyman 1.20 Dark Lover 1.50 Sire De Grugy 2.20 National Trust 2.50 Eradicate 3.20 Harry Tricker 3.50 Noland


12.35 Silk Slippers 1.05 Kheley 1.35 Songjjang 2.05 Xilerator 2.35 Eastern Hills 3.05 Shifting Gold 3.35 Abulharith