Nicky Henderson has opted not to send Champ to Aintree this weekend
Nicky Henderson has opted not to send Champ to Aintree this weekend

Nicky Henderson has confirmed Champ will skip Saturday's Many Clouds Chase at Aintree, with the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot later this month now the plan.

The Grade Two in Liverpool was expected to act as the nine-year-old's reappearance but Henderson feels the expected 'Soft, Good to soft in places' ground will not suit his charge. 

He said: "He's going to pass this one. He'll school again tomorrow. He's difficult to place. 

"We thought about the Many Clouds but we're going to leave that one alone for now.

"He's one that has a bit to find yet and probably wants some easier ground as well." 

Champ is set to feature in the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot later this month
Champ is set to feature in the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot later this month

Connections are keen to ensure that the conditions are right for Champ's return, following a frustrating spell that has seen him run just once since winning the RSA Insurance Novices' Chase at Cheltenham in March 2020. 

The gelding has undergone wind surgery and has also had a back operation since his last outing, which came at last year's Festival. 

Having finished second to Sceau Royal in a Grade 2 at Newbury last February, he returned to Prestbury Park in last year's Gold Cup but was pulled up by Nico de Boinville before the seventh after struggling with his jumping. 

With this weekend coming too soon, the focus is now on a trip to Ascot for the Long Walk Hurdle on December 21. 

Stablemates Buzz and On The Blind Side are also booked in for a trip to Berkshire but there are still doubts as to whether Champ will indeed feature in the Grade 1 due to uncertainty over his jumping. 

The concerns produced by his Gold Cup performance clearly linger, with the Seven Barrows handler keen to see how this son of King's Theatre schools before making any concrete plans. 

He added: "We put him in the Long Walk Hurdle which is going to be interesting because Buzz is going there, On The Blind Side is almost certainly going there. 

"It is possible, but as you saw in the Gold Cup we've got to get his jumping right."

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