Champ ready to roll in Long Distance highlight
Henderson runner leads classy Newbury field.Connections have high hopes for Champ as he gets his season underway in the Coral Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury on Friday. The gelding has switched between hurdles and fences throughout his career, notably winning what was then known as the RSA at the Cheltenham Festival in 2020 before reverting to smaller obstacles last term. Taking the staying hurdler path, the bay won the 2021 Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot and was then placed in all of the top-class contests in the division during the rest of his campaign. Champ now makes his seasonal bow under regular rider Jonjo O’Neill Jnr and is the expected favourite for the Grade Two contest. “Nicky (Henderson, trainer) is very pleased with him, he said he’s done two nice bits of work and he couldn’t be happier with him,” said Frank Berry, racing manager to owner JP McManus. “We’re hoping for the best with him, we’re likely to take it race by race from Saturday and see where we want to go next.” Henderson, speaking to Sky Sports Racing, added: “He’s never been the easiest and has had his issues, but he’s a lovely horse and wonderfully named. “He’s in good form – he schooled this morning and jumped absolutely beautifully. “He was going to make up into a headline steeplechaser, but he’s always had a few problems with his back and I think he finds jumping hurdles rather easier and he stays three miles really well. “That (Long Walk at Ascot) would be the idea.” Much-loved stayer Paisley Park will make his fourth appearance in the race for Emma Lavelle at Newbury. The bay gelding was at the peak of his powers when lifting the Grade Two prize in 2019, with the victory sandwiched by wins in the Stayers’ Hurdle and the Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham. Now aged 10, Paisley Park is perhaps not the force he once was, but he has finished second and third in the last two renewals of the Long Distance Hurdle. Dan Skelton’s Proschema and the Olly Murphy-trained Thomas Darby renew rivalry after finishing first and second in last month’s West Yorkshire Hurdle at Wetherby. Proschema was 10 lengths too strong on that occasion, but Thomas Darby did claim this prize 12 months ago and returns to defend his crown. “Thomas Darby is in good form. He is a bit better off at the weights with Proschema than when they last met, but he would want to improve plenty to be beating Dan’s horse,” said Murphy. “If it turned into a real staying race, he could run really well. He does like Newbury. “They are all a year older this year and Thomas Darby has had a prep run. He will be going there razor-sharp fit and this is his kind of Gold Cup for the season, so I am hoping he can run well. “Champ is going to be hard to beat off his Long Walk Hurdle win last year as well. It’s a very competitive race but we are looking forward to running him.” The field is completed by Tom Lacey’s outsider Tea Clipper and Jeremy Scott’s stable star Dashel Drasher. The latter is better known as a Grade One-winning chaser, but has won his last two starts over hurdles – the most recent being at Aintree three weeks ago. Scott said: “We’ve been really pleased with him since Aintree. I would have loved to have gone to Ascot last week, but it’s probably a good job we didn’t as we wouldn’t have run. “I just hope the ground is safe. He has won on good ground, but it’s not ideal. “If he stays the three miles then it definitely opens things up for us going forward.”
Follow us on Twitter racing365dotcom and like our Facebook page.
Affordability checks petition passes 100,000 signatures
It is feared new regulations could cost the racing industry up to £250million.
Mixedwave becomes first winner disqualified under whip rules
Alex Edwards used his whip 16 times at Market Rasen – nine above the permitted level.
Mahler Mission camp upbeat ahead of Coral Gold Cup
Irish raider has been backed into favouritism for Saturday’s Newbury showpiece.
Frost covers in place at Newcastle and Newbury
Both tracks are taking precautions ahead of high-profile fixtures this weekend.
Love Envoi ready for Fighting Fifth reappearance
Harry Fry’s admirable mare is set to face Constitution Hill at Newcastle.
Alexander hoping Shishkin sets up Rehearsal for Elvis
Newcastle contender will carry a low weight if Nicky Henderson’s star runs.
Unbeaten Impaire Et Passe on course for Hatton’s Grace return
Five-year-old has impressed in every run to date.
Notlongtillmay set Kempton target for January
Silviniaco Conti Chase on the agenda for Paddy Power Gold Cup runner-up.
Kamsinas on course for trip to Aintree
Fergal O’Brien eyeing Formby Novices’ Hurdle, formerly known as the Tolworth.
Thunder getting ready to Rock and roll into Cheltenham
Recent win at Carlisle teed him up for a crack at a big prize.