Champ – ‘he just wanted to go round again’
Champ took his record to eight wins from 11 starts, but his victory in the Ladbrokes-sponsored Grade 2 novice chase came with high drama attached when the odds-on shot threatened to miss the run-in and duck out at the elbow.
Jockey Barry Geraghty snatched him up to get back on track, and said afterwards: “He just wanted to go round again.”
That theory was backed up by the JP McManus-owned gelding’s trainer Nicky Henderson, who has posed the seven-year-old a few challenging questions.
Henderson said: “What the horse is saying, quite rightly, is, ‘Why is this fool running me over two-miles-four; should we not be going two-six or further?’
“He wanted to jump the water and go round again. He can’t believe I’m running him over this trip.”
The reasoning behind the decision to go for this 2m4f event, registered as the Berkshire Novices’ Chase, and not Saturday’s Ladbrokes John Francome Novices’ Chase over three and a half furlongs further was the fact Geraghty is due to be at Newcastle to ride stablemate Buveur D’Air in the same afternoon’s Betfair Fighting Fifth Hurdle.
Henderson has no stamina concerns for the winner, who heads the betting at 4-1 with Sky Bet and Bet Victor for the RSA Novices’ Chase.
“I’m quite keen to keep Champ under the three-mile radar until Cheltenham, when I think we know where we’ll end up,” said the Lambourn trainer, who landed this race in 2011 with Bobs Worth, who went on to win an RSA and Gold Cup.
From the family of triple Gold Cup hero Best Mate, Champ is named after Sir Anthony McCoy, who used to ride for McManus.
He remains six-year-old Archie McCoy’s favourite horse and got a decent report from the 20-time champion jockey.
“He has to improve a bit, but he’s a stayer and clearly wants a trip,” McCoy said. “You can see he’s only getting going. He jinked at the elbow, but motored from there to the winning post. He’s got a very high cruising speed, but he’s also got stamina.”