Nicky Henderson could consider running Champ over hurdles due to limited options over fences for his Cheltenham Festival winner.
Henderson had been hoping to run Champ, who won last season’s RSA Chase in dramatic style, in the Savills Chase over Christmas but felt the Leopardstown contest was coming too soon.
With the Cotswold Chase at the end of next month, in which stablemate Santini is also due to run, and the Denman Chase in February the only other suitable races, Henderson may be forced into a return to the smaller obstacles.
“I’ve got work to do. We tended to his wind earlier in the season and that put us back, which is why we are late,” said Henderson.
“I was trying to get to Ireland, but we were always fighting a bit of a losing battle. We’re nearly there and another fortnight would have done him, but another fortnight takes us nowhere.
“There really are only two races between now and the Gold Cup he can run in – the Cotswold Chase at the Trials Meeting and the Denman Chase at Newbury. They are the only two recognised races for the staying chasers, they are all you can do which is why you’ve got to consider hurdling.
“I don’t particularly want to, especially with Champ as he needs all the experience he can get jumping fences.
“He has been jumping extremely well. We’ve been doing a lot of schooling and he spent a few days with Henrietta Knight doing special exercises and was very good. We’re very pleased with that part of his preparation.”
In the same JP McManus ownership, dual champion hurdler Buveur D’Air is well on the road to recovery after an injury limited him to just one start last term.
“The Contenders Hurdle is very much the plan for Buveur D’Air, and I’d really rather one before it. If there was something in the middle of January that would be great,” said Henderson, speaking on a zoom call ahead of Kempton’s Ladbrokes Christmas Festival.
“He’s coming on very well, he worked on Saturday and every day he is getting better. Touch wood, the injury has not held us back, as when we started the season he was lame.
“All has gone very well and the injury has not been any interference. All we do differently is keep him off the all-weather, he does all his work on grass.
“His work has been excellent and we have every hope and ambition we can get to Cheltenham. He’s got to meet Epatante. He’s a two-miler and she’s a two-miler so we are very lucky.