Henderson Talks Champ Plans With Struggle To Find Season Starting Point


Nicky Henderson has an abundance of horses at his disposal and a horse that is still yet to be seen this season is the JP McManus owned RSA Novices' Chase winner Champ.

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 looks to be the big target for the horse this term and with that in mind the Seven Barrows team are being slightly more cautious with him and what races he is entered in.

With Henderson having other horses also in that division he wants to keep them apart for as long as possible, but finding a starting point for the Grade One winner has become a big challenge.

It looked as though the gelding would be starting his season off over in Ireland after in the Savills Chase over Christmas but felt the Leopardstown contest was coming too soon after his wind operation after the handler admitted that the star had undergone the procedure in August.

However, now with Champ not running this year he needs to find alternatives for the new year and the only races on offer seem to be the Cotswald Chase at the end of January and the Denman Chase in February, but they look to far away if he wants a proper preparation ahead of the Gold Cup.

This has now left Henderson to mull over the idea of sending him over hurdles before the Cheltenham festival just to get a run into his star.

“I’ve got work to do. We tended to his wind earlier in the season and that put us back, which is why we are late,” said Henderson.

“I was trying to get to Ireland, but we were always fighting a bit of a losing battle. We’re nearly there and another fortnight would have done him, but another fortnight takes us nowhere.

“There really are only two races between now and the Gold Cup he can run in – the Cotswold Chase at the Trials Meeting and the Denman Chase at Newbury. They are the only two recognised races for the staying chasers, they are all you can do which is why you’ve got to consider hurdling.

“I don’t particularly want to, especially with Champ as he needs all the experience he can get jumping fences.

“He has been jumping extremely well. We’ve been doing a lot of schooling and he spent a few days with Henrietta Knight doing special exercises and was very good. We’re very pleased with that part of his preparation.”