Nicky Henderson has nailed down his Gold Cup Chance Champ's season starting point and will send him to Newbury before the Cheltenham festival to run in the Grade Two Denman Chase.
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.
The Gold Cup is the big target for the horse this term and with that in mind the Seven Barrows team have been slightly more cautious with him and what races he is entered in.
With Henderson having other horses also in that division he has found it difficult to give Champ a starting point this season, but with it becoming desperately close to the festival, the handler has now bit the bullet.
It looked as though the gelding would be starting his season off over in Ireland in the Savills Chase over Christmas, but Henderson felt the Leopardstown contest was coming too soon after his wind operation as the handler admitted that the star had undergone the procedure in August.
The Cotswold Chase became an option for Champ, but with Santini possibly running in that event it left the Denman Chase as his only option to run before he went back to Prestbury Park in March.
(Credit ATR) The Seven Barrows trainer said: “Champ is definitely going for the Denman at Newbury, that is a definite plan.
“He’s had a big away day where he jumped very well. He needed it, and it was our attempt to have a sort of race before the Denman so it won’t take so much out of him come the day. He’s in good form.
“We haven’t got as far as who will ride him.”