Champ could not have been more impressive when making a winning debut over the larger obstacles and looks a worthy red-hot 6/5 favourite with BetVictor to follow-up in the extended 2m 3f Grade 2 Berkshire Novices Chase at Newbury on Friday (14:25).
This JP McManus owned seven-year-old, who is named after 20-time champion jump jockey Sir Anthony McCoy, has won six of his nine starts under Rules, finishing placed on three other occasions.
He progressed throughout last season, winning a competitive 15-runner handicap here in fine style before taking the step up into Grade 1 company in his stride and quickening smartly to easily beat Getaway Trump by 2 1/2 lengths in the Challow Hurdle at this venue.
Champ then ran a blinder when a two-length runner-up in the Grade 1 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle over 2m 5f at the Cheltenham Festival, travelling strongly throughout before being unable to find any extra close home.
The son of King’s Theatre went on to round-off the campaign with a most taking success in the Grade 1 Sefton Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree’s Grand National meeting, where he only had to be ridden out by Mark Walsh to readily account for the very smart Emitom by three lengths.
He relished the step up to 3m for the first time that day. There was also no disguising the high regard in which Champ is held by Henderson in his post race interview.
Strong traveller well-fancied for Berkshire Novices’ Chase
McCoy, who remains closely linked to McManus, could not hide his delight and believes that this strapping sort could develop into a future Cheltenham Gold Cup prospect.
He obviously has a long way to go to live up to those expectations, but Champ looks set to take high rank over fences this season – judged on his near perfect round of jumping in a beginners chase over 2m 6f here three weeks ago.
After being held-up off the pace for much of the race by a confident Barry Geraghty, he cruised into second going ominously well between the last two obstacles.
Champ then joined long-time leader Dashel Drasher at the last, before quickening impressively to win going away under a hands a heels ride by 3 1/2 lengths.
It was a performance which oozed class. The drop back in trip should hold no fears for Champ, as he is a strong travelling sort with a potent turn of foot.
He is currently ante post favourite with bookmakers for the RSA Chase at the 2020 Cheltenham Festival.
Champ is fully expected to take the Berkshire Novices’ Chase and cement his position at the head of the betting for that Grade 1 contest.
Southfield Stone looks solid in Ladbrokes Chase
The Paul Nicholls trained Southfield Stone is a strong fancy to open his account over fences at the third time of asking in the Ladbrokes Chase (12:45) – a novices’ limited handicap run over 2m.
This six-year-old showed progressive form over hurdles last season when winning four of his six starts and posting some solid efforts in defeat.
They include when a 3 3/4 lengths third to the highly-regarded Elixir De Nutz in the Grade I Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown, where the son of Fair Mix held every chance approaching the final flight before being unable to find any extra on the run-in.
Southfield Stone went on to land the Grade 2 Dovecote Novices’ Hurdle two starts later at Kempton, where he dug deep and stayed on strongly to fend of the challenge of the smart Angels Breath by three-quarters of a length.
He then ran below par when a well-beaten last of seven in a Grade 1 at the Aintree Grand National Festival. That may well have been a case of one race too many at the end of a long season, however.
Southfield Stone looks the type that would do well went sent chasing, but was surprisingly turned over when sent off odds-on and beaten 2 3/4 lengths by Litterale Ci on return to action at Exeter last month.
However, the stable wasn’t really firing at the time. There was much more to like about Southfield Stone’s run last time out at Taunton when a keeping on fourth-length second to Brewin’upastorm.
That form sets the standard in this and Southfield Stone has also won four of his six starts over the trip.
He also goes extremely well for Harry Cobden, so – at 7/2 with William Hill – looks the one to be on.
Eamon An Cnoic each-way value in handicap chase
In the extended 2m 3f class 2 handicap chase (13:50), Eamon An Cnoic looks nicely treated on the pick of his form makes plenty of each-way appeal.
This David Pipe trained eight-year-old ran very well last season when an 11-length fifth of 18 to Baron Alco in the valuable Grade 3 BetVictor Gold Cup at Cheltenham off a mark of 135.
He also ran a cracker at the Cheltenham Festival when fading late on to finish a 3 1/2 lengths fourth of 22 to Siruh Du Lac in the similar grade Brown Advisory Plate also at Cheltenham.
Eamon An Cnoic is able to run in this lower class affair off just 1lb higher (138). That gives him a big shout from a handicapping perspective.
The son of Westerner is two from four in the grade and also hails from a yard that has been among the winners of late.
Although he got no further than the second when unseating regular pilot Tom Scudamore on seasonal reappearance in this year’s renewal of the BetVictor Gold Cup, he was quickly caught and this is effectively his first start of the campaign.
That’s a plus as Eamon An Cnoic has a fine record fresh, so – at 12/1 with Ladbrokes – he has more going for him than his odds would suggest.
He makes for a value play against market leader Kalashinkov, who looks plenty short enough on Berkshire Novices’ Chase day.