Fast Improving Champ Out to Advertise Cheltenham Claims in Challow Hurdle

On the face of it, Champ has been well and truly thrown in at the deep end this weekend, but it is a move that he thoroughly deserves. He has ran four times over hurdles in total, three times this season and won all three of those starts. He has won a maiden hurdle, a novice hurdle and a handicap, which hardly shows he is ready for the step up into Grade One company. However, he couldn’t have done things any more impressively so far, and the fact that Nicky Henderson has chosen him from his strong team to run in this race, shows that the champion trainer also thinks he is the real deal.

One thing that Champ has over all of his rivals apart from one, Kateson, is a course and distance win. He won a comeptitive handicap over course and distance last time out, eventually moving away to record a comfortable win by more than four lengths. He was good value for far more than that, and that came a mark of 139, which makes his current rating of 150 look about right. That rating makes him the highest rated horse in this field, and it is no surprise to see him priced up as the favourite to win Saturday’s feature, and I think he is going to take a lot of stopping.

We have seen many top end horses win this race and then go on to have Cheltenham success, could Champ be the next? He is entered in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at the festival, which is over 2m5f, just half a furlong further than this race. Eventually he could get three miles, but for now this looks to be his optimum trip so that is likely to be the race he runs in at the festival, assuming he goes there. He is currently available at around 8/1 to land that race, and should he put up another impressive performance and win on Saturday, don’t be surprised to see those odds come tumbling down.

Of those in opposition on Saturday, the biggest danger may be Coolanly for Fergal O’Brien. He won a Grade Two at Cheltenham last time out, staying on strongly up the hill to take the race by just under four lengths. Nicky Henderson had the second in that race, so he will know where he stands with that one. If there is one thing to say about Coolanly it is that he looks set to relish a little further than this, and he could struggle to go with the speedsters here, three miles may be more to his liking.

Brewin’Upastorm is a fascinating runner and he comes here on the back of just one run over hurdles. He was odds on for that and made no mistake in putting away a field at Huntingdon, although the form of that is well short of what is required. That was over just two miles so he is facing a big step up in trip here, as well as a huge step up in grade. He is one for the future, and really could be anything at this stage so it will be interesting to see how he gets on against top class opponents.

Champ is the selection for the feature on Saturday though, he looks to have some top quality form in the book and there is every chance that he is still improving. Nicky Henderson could probably have entered a few in this, but he has chosen Champ as his sole representative, which is a glowing reference for the horse in itself. Already fancied for Cheltenham, Champ could go even shorter in the betting if he puts up the kind of display I am expecting in the Challow.