Champ makes perfect start to chase career

Henderson runner impresses at Newbury.

Trainer: N J HENDERSON
Trainer: N J HENDERSON Picture: Pat Healy Photography

Champ looks set to take high rank over fences this season after putting in a near perfect round of jumping in the KKA-Highpoint Beginners' Chase at Newbury on Thursday.

The dual Grade One-winning hurdler made a winning debut over fences when proving a cut above his rivals in the extended two-mile-six contest.

Sitting off the pace for much of the race, the Nicky Henderson-trained seven-year-old joined long-time leader Dashel Drasher at the last before quickening away impressively to claim victory by three and a half lengths.

Henderson said of the 8-13 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."


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