GBI RACING

Champ aiming to reign in Ballymore contest

Champ in winning action at Newbury

Champ will bid to live up to his name in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham on Wednesday.

The Nicky Henderson-trained seven-year-old carries the silks of JP McManus and was named after none other than multiple champion jockey Sir Anthony McCoy.

The seven-year-old has met with defeat just once over hurdles, on his debut, and is seeking his fifth win in a row after Grade One success in the Challow Novices’ Hurdle at Newbury.

Henderson said: “This time last year we left him as a novice. We went to Perth to win his maiden, then went to Newton Abbot to win another and then put him away for the summer.

The Champ team together in Sir Anthony McCoy's racing days
The Champ team together in Sir Anthony McCoy’s racing days (Steve Parsons/PA)

“He has won two races at Newbury impressively. He ran away with Aidan Coleman halfway down the back straight the first time. I thought he would never get home from there, and he flew.

“Then he won the Challow. People are sceptical about the Challow form, in that horses that have come out of it haven’t run well. I think the horse has the right credentials. He is a good horse that is improving.

“He is named after AP (McCoy). It’s a burden he has to bear and I hope he can carry it. He has a great chance, but he is not in superstar status yet.

“He has been good since Newbury, but it will be a tough race.”

Battleoverdoyen powers clear for Grade One glory at Naas under Jack Kennedy
Battleoverdoyen powers clear for Grade One glory at Naas under Jack Kennedy (Brian Lawless/PA)

An obvious danger to Champ is the Gordon Elliott-trained Battleoverdoyen, with the pair vying for favouritism.

The Gigginstown House Stud-owned six-year-old has an unblemished career record and most recently struck at Grade One level in the Lawlor’s of Naas Novices’ Hurdle in January.

Elliott said: “Battleoverdoyen is in good form. I didn’t run him at Leopardstown at the Dublin Racing Festival as he had three quick runs and I wanted to give him a break.

“He jumps very well and I’ve been pleased with his work at home – I think the Ballymore will suit him.

“He might lack a bit of experience, but timing-wise I think we’ve made the right decision to give him some time off and go straight to Cheltenham.”

Easy Game in winning action at Galway during the summer
Easy Game in winning action at Galway during the summer (Niall Carson/PA)

Elliott also runs Galvin, with his big rival Willie Mullins calling on Easy Game and Castlebawn West.

Easy Game beat stablemate Getareason to win the Grade Two Navan Novice Hurdle when last seen and is the choice of Ruby Walsh, with Paul Townend aboard Castlebawn West.

Assistant trainer Patrick Mullins said: “Easy Game is a solid performer who has won a Grade Three and a Grade Two this season.

“He’s going to need to produce a career-best performance to be placed, but we hope there is still some improvement in him.

“We’ve freshened him up since his last run and hopefully he can pick up a share of the prize-money.”

Olly Murphy bids to claim his first Cheltenham Festival winner with Brewin'upastorm
Olly Murphy bids to claim his first Cheltenham Festival winner with Brewin’upastorm (Mike Egerton/PA)

Olly Murphy was left to rue a final-flight fall with Brewin’upastorm on his last visit to Prestbury Park, but the Wilmcote handler hopes a change of tactics can help him leave that effort in the past.

Murphy said: “He is in very good form and won’t mind the rain. I’m looking forward to running him.

“I thought he would have won last time when he fell at the last, but if you ask Barry Geraghty I’m sure he would say the same.

“We are going to ride him a little bit differently and take our time with him. He would have an each-way chance in what is a competitive race. ”

A big run is expected from Beakstown by Dan Skelton
A big run is expected from Beakstown by Dan Skelton (Julian Herbert/PA)

Dan Skelton expects Beakstown to make his presence felt if taking a step forward from his last-time-out Grade Two success.

He said: “I’m happy with him. He is obviously a Grade Two winner and holds good form for this race.

“It is competitive, but we are happy with the horse. He will make a super chaser, but we have got a bit of business going forward over hurdles first.

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