Champ looks a worthy red-hot 4/7 favourite with William Hill to give weight all-round and land the 2m 4f Grade 2 Dipper Novices’ Chase on a cracking New Year’s Day card at Cheltenham (13:25).
This Nicky Henderson-trained seven-year old, who is named after 20-time champion jump jockey Sir Anthony McCoy, has won eight of his 11 starts under Rules – finishing placed on the three other occasions.
He progressed throughout last season winning a competitive 15-runner handicap at Newbury in fine style.
Champ then took 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 Newbury.
He also ran a cracker when a two-length runner-up in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle over 2m 5f at the Cheltenham Festival, travelling strongly throughout before being unable to find extra close home.
Champ went on to round-off his 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.
Dipper Novices’ Chase win can confirm potential en route to the top
Connections decided to go chasing with him for this season.
Nothing went right for Champ in the 2m 4f Grade 2 Berkshire Novices’ Chase last time out at Newbury, but he still got the job done in style in the end to maintain his unbeaten record over the larger obstacles.
He was lucky not to be brought down by a loose horse at the third fence where Barry Geraghty performed miracles to stay in the saddle.
That seemed to unsettle Champ, resulting in him being safe rather than spectacular at the obstacles.
As they rounded the home turn, however, he was still going well and was produced to take up the running at the last.
Champ then had to survive another scare as he nearly took the wrong course on the long run-in, forcing Geraghty to snatch him up in a split second to avoid disaster.
He then showed his customary turn of foot to beat Black Op going away by 1 1/4 lengths.
Given how the race panned out, it was a performance which could be upgraded. Champ clearly has the talent to go right to the very top over fences.
That success means that he has to shoulder a 5lb penalty in the Dipper Novices’ Chase, but he’s fully expected to prove up to the task and land the hat-trick.
Champ can confirm his place at the head of the ante post betting for the RSA Chase at the 2020 Cheltenham Festival with victory here.
Redford Road the Ballymore bet
In the Listed 2m 4f Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle that gets proceedings underway (12:15), the progressive Redford Road looks worth siding with to provide local trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies with a winner.
This five-year-old made it three wins from four starts over the obstacles when showing tremendous guts to land the Grade 2 Bristol Novices’ Hurdle – an Albert Bartlett Trial over 3m here last month.
Sent off a seemingly unfancied 14/1, the son of Trans Island raced towards the rear of the eight-strong field, before making stealthy headway two flights from home.
He then took up the running rounding the home turn led, but looked beaten when 5/2 favourite Champagne Well headed him approaching the last and went a couple of lengths clear.
On the stiff uphill run-in, however, Redford Road found renewed effort and rallied in the last furlong to get up and score by half a length from the Fergal O’Brien trained horse.
Given that Champagne Well had previously won at The Showcase meeting at the track in October before finding only the hugely exciting Thyme Hill three lengths too good in a Grade 2 here, the form looks solid in relation to this lower grade affair.
It makes Redford Road look a lively outsider for the Albert Barlett itself at the Cheltenham Festival in March.
He is thus taken at 3/1 with Betfair to follow-up and further enhance his claims for that contest.
Ask Dillon appeals each-way in handicap hurdle
Having shaped nicely on return to action, Ask Dillon looks cracking each-way value at 14/1 with Paddy Power (who pay five places) in the 3m handicap hurdle (14:35).
Trained by Fergal O’Brien, this five-year-old was a smart bumper performer who opened his account the obstacles at the first time of asking when easily beating Larkbarow Lad by seven lengths at Ascot.
He then ran very well to finish a 2 1/4 lengths runner-up to the now 142-rated Umbrigado at Exeter, before finding life too hot when 10th of 16 to City Island in the Grade 1 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival here.
Ask Dillon wen on to round off the campaign with a taking eight-length success at Exeter.
There was lots to like about his run at Chepstow five days ago on handicap debut when a 6 1/4 lengths third of 11 to Eva’s Oscar off a mark of 137.
The son of Ask held every chance at the last until lack of fitness took its toll and he was unable to find any extra.
Ask Dillon looks sure to strip fitter for that spin and is able to race in this off an unchanged mark.
Judged on the pick of his form, it makes him look a huge player at the weights for a yard that continues to be among the winners.
Ask Dillion is thus a fancy for this handicap on Dipper Novices’ Chase day.