Turf Talk: Trainer Henderson earmarks Champ for Saturday’s Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham

NICKY Henderson is considering sending Champ for Saturday’s Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham.

Wednesday, 23rd January 2019, 1:30 pm
Nicky Henderson is considering sending Champ for Saturday's Ballymore Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham. PIC: Julian Herbert/PA Wire

JP McManus named the seven-year-old after former champion jockey Sir Anthony McCoy in the hope he could live up to the name.

So far the omens are good, with Champ registering a Grade One victory last time out in the Challow Hurdle at Newbury.

“Champ came out of the Challow Novices’ Hurdle in good form,” said Henderson.

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Trainer Nicky Henderson. PIC: Simon Galloway/PA Wire

“It was another good performance at Newbury and Festival Trials Day at Cheltenham is something that I am thinking about for him.

“He did a piece of work last week and we were very happy with him.

“We are looking to go down the Grade One Ballymore Hurdle route with Champ.”

Birchdale, also owned by McManus and trained by Henderson, is also among the 14 entries.

Trainer Dan Skelton. PIC: David Davies/PA Wire

n Dan Skelton is leaning towards letting Grade Two scorer Roksana take on dual Champion Hurdle winner Buveur D’Air on her return to action in next month’s Contenders Hurdle at Sandown.

The Alcester handler has earmarked the two-mile Listed contest on February 2 as a starting point for the seven-year-old, who was last seen when second in a Grade One contest at Aintree last April.

Skelton is then targeting the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.

He said: “You will see Roksana in the Contenders Hurdle at Sandown. I didn’t enter her at the weekend at Doncaster as they are watering ground up there, so she can’t be running on ground like that.

“She will go to Sandown as I’ve got to get a run into her. You saw how keen she was in the mares’ final last season and if I took her straight to Cheltenham, it would be like holding a lit firework and we would be in big trouble.

“It will be Sandown, then on to Cheltenham.”

He explained further: “Everything was fine with her in the autumn, then just one day she wasn’t quite right. We sent her off for bone scans and we found nothing.

“I think she just had a muscle injury. Once we found out she wasn’t quite right, if I couldn’t get her ready for the Long Walk, we weren’t going to push her.”

Skelton is favouring an outing in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at the Festival for Beakstown following his impressive success in a Grade Two at Warwick last time out.

He said: “He was good last time. We’ve spoken about it and me, Bryan (Drew) and Harry (Skelton) were not keen to go for the Albert Bartlett, so we won’t be doing that.

“If he gets an entry at Cheltenham, it will be in the Ballymore and obviously Aintree will be considered.

“Whatever we do will be for the right reasons for novice chasing next season and I just want to be cautious – we do want to get it right. If we went to Cheltenham, we would go straight there.

“If we decided for whatever reason we didn’t go, there is a race at Ascot we could go to then Aintree. I’m not saying we are more tempted, but we are looking at Cheltenham unless there is a great reason not to.”

SOBOT’S SELECTIONS

CHELMSFORD: 4.25 Amor Fati, 4.55 Dorchester, 5.25 Kadrizzi, 5.55 HOW FAR (NAP), 6.25 Holdenhurst, 6.55 Sea Of Reality, 7.25 Colwood, 7.55 Rippling Waters.

FAKENHAM: 12.55 Red Royalist, 1.25 Vaxalco, 2.00 Jen’s Boy (treble), 2.35 Vocal Heir, 3.10 Calipso Collonges, 3.40 Urbanist.

SOUTHWELL: 1.15 Anna Jammeela, 1.45 Hanati, 2.20 Moonraker (next best), 2.55 Mr Carbonator, 3.30 Coolagh Forest, 4.05 Dashing Poet.

WETHERBY: 1.05 Lisheen Castle, 1.35 Northern Girl, 2.10 Knocknamona, 2.45 Compadre, 3.20 Nightfly, 3.55 Shantaluze.