Champ looks to hold leading claims of providing trainer Nicky Hdnerson with a fourth winner in the 3m Grade 1 RSA Novices’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival on Wednesday (14:10).
This JP McManus owned eight-year old, who is named after 20-time champion jump jockey Sir Anthony McCoy, has won eight of his 12 starts under Rules – finishing placed on the two other occasions.
He progressed throughout last season, winning a competitive 15-runner handicap at Newbury in fine style before taking the step up into Grade 1 company in his stride when quickening smartly and beating Getaway Trump by 2 1/2 lengths in the Challow Hurdle there.
The son of King’s Theatre also ran a blinder at this meeting 12 months ago when a two-length runner-up in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle over 2m 5f, 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.
Connections always maintained that his future lay over the larger obstacles, however, with McCoy saying he could be a future Cheltenham Gold Cup horse should all go to plan.
Unlucky in Dipper
After winning easily on debut over the larger obstacles and seasonal reappearance at Newbury, Champ overcame all sorts of trouble to follow-up in in the 2m 4f Grade 2 Berkshire Novices’ Chase at the same venue.
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.
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.
The imposing gelding was then all set to complete the hat-trick last time out under a 5lb penalty in the Grade 2 Dipper Novices’ Chase here on New Year’s Day when four lengths up and yet to be asked a question when coming to grief at the second last.
He appeared to jump the fence well enough only to crumple on landing and up to that point had been really clever at the obstacles.
Champ has reportedly been schooling really well at home since and looks to have the ideal profile for the RSA Novices’ Chase.
So, at 7/2 with Betfair, he is taken to land this and confirm himself a leading contender for the 2021 Gold Cup.
Minella Indo a major player for in-form De Bromhead
Irish handler Henry De Bromhead has his team in fine form, so Minella Indo looks sure to make a bold bid to provide with another winner following a taking success last time out.
This seven-year-old sprang a 50/1 shock at this meeting 12 months ago when staying on well for pressure to beat Commander Of Fleet by two lengths in the 3m Grade 1 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle.
He then proved that to be no fluke when following-up in good style in another Grade 1 at the Punchestown, where he again stayed on powerfully to readily beat Allaho by two lengths.
Minella Indo was sent chasing this term and shaped with stacks of promise when a keeping on eight-length second of 10 to Laurina over an inadequate trip of 2m 4f at Limerick.
The son of Beat Hollow was given a tender introduction by Rachel Blackmore and duly showed the benefit of that experience last time out when he stepped back up to 3m and landed a beginners chase at Navan.
Minella Indo raced prominently throughout and, after being joined at the last, found plenty on the run-in to readily beat Captain CJ by 1 1/2 lengths.
He jumped really well apart from a slight mistake at the 11th, and the form has been franked as the runner-up went on to land a Grade 2 at Navan next time up by six lengths.
Minella Indo undoubtedly has more to offer, is four from five over the 3m trip, and relishes the forecast soft ground.
He is also proven in the grade and a real tough nut who always seems to find something for pressure. Minella Indo thus rates the main danger to Champ and can be backed at 100/30 with BetVictor.
Copperhead also holds solid RSA Novices’ Chase claims
The ultra-progressive Copperhead is another with leading claims following a stunning runway success last time out.
After being victorious in handicaps at Wincanton and Newbury in December, this Colin Tizzard trained six-year-old took the transition to graded company in his stride when plundering the Grade 2 Reynoldstown Novices’ Chase over 3m at Ascot last month.
Copperhead tracked leaders on outside, before taking up the running going well two from home.
He then shot clear under Jonjo O’Neill Jnr and, despite hitting the last and pecking badly, easily beat Two For Gold by 17 lengths.
The runner-up went into the race unbeaten in three starts over fences including a Grade 2 at Warwick which he landed in gutsy fashion.
Danny Whizzbang, who finished a further six lengths back in third, had also won a Grade 2 at Newbury before finishing third in a Grade 1 at Kempton – so that gives the form a solid look
That most taking display from Copperhead has earned him a revised rating of 155. That is 2lb higher than Champ and puts him 8lb clear of Minella Indo.
It makes him a key player in the RSA Novices’ Chase and the son of Sulamani is a relentless galloper who has proven form on the forecast soft ground.
A bold bid to land the four-timer looks assured, and Copperhead can be backed at 9/2 with Betway to do just that.