Champ On The Charge - Cheltenham Festival Update

We will be looking ahead to what promises to be a terrific Festive period of racing later in the week, but the first of our weekly reflections of the racing week focusses on Champ’s tremendous win in the Grade 1 Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot on Saturday.

The victory was the first success at the top table for jockey Jonjo O’Neill, but it won’t be his last. He will surely become first jockey to the JP McManus owned British-trained runners sooner rather than later. Aidan Coleman holds that mantle at present, but I expect Jonjo Jnr to be number one by the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival in March.

Much has been written in the aftermath of the race as to whether trainer Nicky Henderson will revert to chasing and another tilt at Gold Cup glory in the spring or whether he will stick over the smaller obstacles with his champ. 

I have put my money where my mouth is and backed the nine-year-old for the Stayers’ Hurdle even though no 10-year-old has ever won the race although surely only injury prevented the incomparable Big Buck’s from landing the five-timer back in 2013. 

Note two 11-year-olds – Crimson Embers in 1986 and Waterford Glass in 1926 and one teenager Zarane (13) in 1927 have landed the premier race for staying hurdlers of the season.

The advocates of Champ reverting to fences will tell us he beat the subsequent Gold Cup winner Minella Indo and the brilliant Ryanair scorer Allaho in the RSA of 2020 but that was a freak result. 

He looked like being pulled up at halfway on that occasion before powering home up the hill passing a fading Allaho and an idling Minella Indo. He travelled beautifully and jumped slickly at Ascot and was going away from the line from another top-notch staying hurdler in Thyme Hill. The form is out of the very top drawer.

Champ by name…

— FreeBets Racing ? (@FreeBetsDotCom) December 18, 2021

Champ is now a top price of 9/2 for the Stayers’ Hurdle with Paddy Power yet a best price of 20/1 with Betfred for the Gold Cup. So, the layers think he will rock up at Cheltenham over timber and I concur. 

If you fancy Henderson will stick to chasing – there is only one Cheltenham Gold Cup – new customers at Betfred can bet £10 and get £50 on sports on £10 on casino. 

Henderson and McManus will want a horse for what is the Blue Riband of jumps racing, but perhaps Chantry House – 12s with bet365 for Gold Cup glory – is that horse. We will learn more about his long-term prospects at Kempton on Boxing Day – currently 11/2 with 888sport – although we will look ahead to that midseason highlight later in the week. 

For now, the first recommended antepost bet for Cheltenham 2021 is: Champ 1pt win at 9/2 for the Stayers’ Hurdle with Paddy Power