Champ impresses on chasing bow at Newbury

Champ jumps past Dashel Drasher at the last at Newbury
Champ jumps past Dashel Drasher at the last at Newbury

Nicky Henderson's Champ was an impressive winner on his chasing debut at Newbury on Thursday.

Nicky Henderson's seven-year-old was second to City Island in the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival and won the Grade One Doom Bar Sefton Novices' Hurdle after that last spring.

Sent off at 8/13 for his chasing debut at Newbury in the KKA-Highpoint Beginners' Chase, Barry Geraghty moved him into contention three out after Dashel Drasher had cut out the running.

The pair jumped the last together, but Champ was travelling within himself and only had to be nudged out by Geraghty to secure a three-and-a-half length victory.

Henderson said of the winner: "You would have to say that is about as perfect as you could get.

"I was a bit nervous going two-six first time as he can be quite keen, but on the other hand, slowing it down a bit gave him plenty of time to get into a nice rhythm and school round.

"He took a blow turning in and he (Barry Geraghty) had to sit on him for a second. I thought he would take a blow as he hasn't done much - just that one bit at Chepstow.

"He had a lot of respect for his fences today and that's what I was trying to do (by going to Warwick and Chepstow) as he was a bit quick and swift and he was finding it easy at home.

"You do feel a bit of pressure off your shoulders, especially when they do it nicely, as it was professional and clean. He is a very good horse and he has a lot of gears."

Regarding future plans, the Seven Barrows handler hinted at a return to the top level for the JP McManus-owned gelding after identifying the Ladbrokes Kauto Star Novices' Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day as a possible target.

Henderson added: "We've got lots of options and we will have a look. I suppose the obvious place is Kempton for the Kauto Star. You would be pushed to take another race.

"You would have to go in three weeks and then only give yourself three weeks - that means you would have two runs in six weeks.

"He is quite a clean horse, but practice is probably a good thing and we will see what JP wants to do."

Sky Bet reacted by cutting Champ to 7/1 from 8s for the RSA Chase at Cheltenham in March.

Spokesman Michael Shinners said: "That was a good performance from Champ and considering the ability he showed over hurdles it looks like he'll be a force in the three-mile novice chasing division this season.

"He was already highly ranked in the RSA betting, but we clipped him a little bit to 7/1 seeing as he looks to have taken to fences so well."

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