Champ seeking Challow crown at Newbury

Nicky Henderson’s runner tackles Grade One company for the first time

  • Friday 28 December
  • News
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Champ attempts to graduate from a handicap to Grade One level when he lines-up for the Betway Challow Hurdle at Newbury on Saturday.

While the company will be a different kind of test, Champ is proven over this extended two and a half miles as he won a handicap in good style at the Berkshire venue four weeks ago.

The Nicky Henderson-trained six-year-old was having his first run for six months and only his fourth start over hurdles on that occasion.

“He came out of the last race very well and Nicky’s happy with him,” said Frank Berry, racing manager to owner JP McManus.

“It’s a good field tomorrow and we’re looking for a good run. He’s in good form.”

Alsa Mix has had even less experience but has won both her starts over the smaller obstacles in promising fashion, taking the step from a novice event at Exeter to a Grade Two at Sandown in her stride.

Trainer Alan King has no qualms about taking on the geldings with his six-year-old mare.

“Sandown was a massive step up in class for Alsa Mix, but we were banking on the longer trip and more testing ground playing to our mare’s strengths, and she duly beat the boys,” the Barbury Castle handler told

“This step up in class means she will have to improve again, but if the rain returned she might well do just that as she won her point-to-point in heavy ground, so I won’t be complaining if the forecasters have got it wrong.”

Tom Lacey would also like to see the ground soften up for Kateson, who won over the course and distance at Newbury a month ago.

“He seems in very good order at home. The ground is drying back all the time,” said the Ledbury trainer.

“We’d have liked some softer ground, but we’ll have to see. He’s always run on soft really, but he’ll take his chance.”

Fergal O’Brien, who lifted this prize last season with Poetic Rhythm, looks to Coolanly to give his back-to-back victories.

The six-year-old bounced back from a fall at Chepstow to win the Grade Two Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham last time.

O’Brien said: “The Challow looks a very good race this year with seven in-form runners.

“We are looking forward to running Coolanly. He did not do anything wrong when he won at Cheltenham and deserves to take his chance on the back of that.

“I don’t think slower ground will be a problem. He seems fairly versatile actually and I think he will handle most types of ground.”

A seven-strong field in completed by Olly Murphy’s Brewin’upastorm, Paul Nicholls’ Getaway Trump and the Ben Pauling-trained Nestor Park.

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