Champ Given Cleeve Hurdle Prep Ahead Of Stayers' Target At Cheltenham Festival


Superstar Grade One winner Champ could be set to stay over hurdles for the remainder of the season as Nicky Henderson has outlined a trip to Cheltenham for the Cleeve Hurdle will be his next step on his way to the Stayers' Hurdle at the festival.

The superstar Champ pulled off the performance of the 2020 Cheltenham festival when jumping the last in the RSA well behind the two tiring leaders but managing to fly up the hill, staying the best of the field and just getting up on the line to land the Grade One.

Before that race he lost his unbeaten record over fences when falling two out at Cheltenham on New Year's Day, but at the festival he put everything right and looks to be a hell of a staying horse.

Messed around with last term he was only seen twice over fences, having a prep run over two miles in the Grade Two Game Spirit Chase, before heading back to Cheltenham for the Gold Cup and with everything going wrong he was pulled up.

As a hurdler Champ was exceptional winning the Grade One Challow Hurdle, Grade One Sefton Novices' Hurdle and then finishing a narrow second in the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham.

Not knowing what would be happening with Champ this term after an operation in the summer, he was sent over hurdles on seasonal debut and in a superb renewal of the Grade One Long Walk Hurdle, he came out on top, outstaying the talented Thyme Hill.

This has now seen Henderson lean more towards keeping him over timber for the rest of the season, with the Cleeve Hurdle and then the Stayers' Hurdle at the festival his likely targets.

(Credit Racing Post) Henderson said: "It looks as though we'll head to the Cleeve Hurdle now, and if you're going to do that it probably says it is. Nothing is set in stone at the moment, but it's very much a possibility.

"We think he'd have a very good chance in it. He was brilliant at Ascot, where he jumped beautifully and travelled like a really good horse, which he is. He's been very good since. We know he likes Cheltenham, so he has a lot of things in his favour."

Champ is currently a best price of 9/2 to take the Thursday feature at Prestbury Park in March, with him only having one better rival in the current ante-post betting market.

James Mackie | @JMackieRacing