Champ survived a late scare to live up to his name and maintain his unbeaten record over fences in the Ladbrokes ‘Where The Nation Plays’ Novices’ Chase at Newbury.
A winner over the bigger obstacles at the track earlier this month, the Nicky Henderson-trained seven year old – who is named after Sir Anthony McCoy – repeated the trick dropped down to two and a half miles, to take Grade Two honours.
Brought through to challenge long-time leader Black Op after the last, the 4-5 favourite very nearly took the wrong course – with Barry Geraghty forced to take drastic evasive action before defeating the front-runner by a length and three-quarters.
Henderson said: “What he is quite rightly saying is, ‘there is this fool running me over two-miles-four, should we not be going two-mile-six?’, and he wanted to jump the water and go round again. He wants further.
“I’m quite keen to keep him under the three-mile radar, but I think we know where we want to finish off (RSA Chase).
“The original plan was to come here so he could go to Cheltenham on New Year’s Day for the Dipper. That’s the plan. I want him to go round Cheltenham.
“If we go to the Dipper we can think again, but we don’t have to go three miles before the RSA. There is no doubt he stays, as he proved that at Aintree last season.
“If I’d run him in the Albert Bartlett at Cheltenham and done the sensible thing, he would be unbeaten.”
Reflecting on his fright, Geraghty said: “He took a chance at third-last, but he did well to survive it and was good at the last two. He was leaning a bit left on the run-in and had a look to go round again.
“I had my head down and driving, but he was leaning left. It was a little scare, but he did well.”
As for Black Op’s trainer Tom George, he was pleased with the performance of the Grade One-winning hurdler in defeat, and in particular his jumping.
He said: “It was a great run. It was shame the other one (Dashel Drasher, who unseated his rider at the first fence) didn’t give him a lead or bit of company for a while, as he was probably in front long enough.
“His jumping was excellent. Everything went right, he was just beaten by a very good horse.
“He will stay three miles, but he is quick enough for two and a half as well, so there are plenty of options.”