Champ is a racehorse who has a big name and reputation to live up to.
Bought by leading Irish owner JP McManus and trained by Nicky Henderson, he is called this after 20-time British champion jumps jockey Tony McCoy.
Champ has by and large justified the high regard in which he is held by connections, punters and bookmakers alike. He won a Grade 1 novice hurdle at Aintree during the Grand National meeting at the end of last season and then his first two starts over fences this term.
However, Champ warmed up for his intended Cheltenham Festival target, the RSA Chase, with a run in the Grade 2 Dipper for novices at the same track on New Year’s Day and fell with the race at his mercy two out. That is far from ideal prep for a horse considered by many to be a banker bet for the Festival.
It may pay to consider the alternatives to 3/1 ante post RSA favourite Champ, then. Let’s take a look at possible rivals who could line-up against him at Cheltenham in March.
Past Festival Winners Faugheen, Minella Indo and Samcro Have Claims
Champ didn’t win his Cheltenham Festival race when chasing home City Island in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle last March, but there are potential opponents who have delivered in the past on that grand stage.
Despite being a veteran at 12 years old, Faugheen has made a belated transition to fences. An impressive winner of the Ballymore and then Champion Hurdle in 2014 and 2015, he became a Grade 1 novice chaser winning at Limerick on Boxing Day.
Given his Irish point-to-point background, Faugheen should stay the three miles of the RSA no problem. He is a 14/1 chance to provide trainer Willie Mullins with a fifth winner of that Festival race.
Samcro, meanwhile, is another Ballymore winner in the past for Gordon Elliott. Like Champ, the Gigginstown House Stud owned gelding has a lofty reputation and often been among horse racing tips from Betfair in recent years.
Some of Samcro’s recent outings have come over trips shorter than his optimum when hurdling. It could be that he wants three miles too as he’s another Irish point winner, so best odds of 20/1 for the RSA could be each-way value.
Minella Indo won the Albert Bartlett at a big price when novice hurdling at Cheltenham last March, meanwhile, and is another that has campaigned over shorter than what he wants as a chaser so far. Trainer Henry De Bromhead needs to find another race to get more experience of fences into him, but he could give Champ plenty to think about at odds of 8/1.
Battleoverdoyen and Slate House Other Contenders
Powerful Irish owners Gigginstown love to have racehorses bred for chasing, so it’s no surprise that Battleoverdoyen – a stable companion of Samcro – is another who could be aimed at the RSA. He is unbeaten in three starts over fences including the Grade 2 Florida Pearl at Punchestown and then at the highest level around Leopardstown over Christmas.
Although rivals including Minella Indo were pulled out of the latter on account of the drying ground, Battleoverdoyen has done nothing wrong since being sent chasing. Shorter RSA odds of 8/1 suggest he is more likely to contest the rest than Elliott stablemate Samcro.
Second season novice chaser Slate House won a Grade 1 at Kempton Park on Boxing Day last time out and was another bred to come into his own over fences. Colin Tizzard has had similar types to this horse in recent years who are highly regarded in this sphere.
Slate House relished the step up for the Kauto Star around Kempton and has a decent record at Cheltenham. A 14/1 price for the RSA with bookmakers mean she’s another worth considering each-way.