JONJO O’NEILL JR will ride Champ as the two go on a truth-finding mission during the Long Walk Hurdle on Saturday.
Nicky Henderson’s star will return to smaller hurdles in Ascot’s Grade 1, where he’ll also run antepost favorite Buzz and On The Blind Side.
Champ has not been seen since he was pulled up in the Gold Cup and forced to skip goals at Aintree and Haydock earlier of this campaign.
He had back surgery during the off-season and Henderson had to be patient with his nine-year-old. But the Lambourn driver is now ready to present his Festival winner named after AP McCoy.
“All three will run, that’s the plan,” Henderson said. Jonjo O’Neill Jr will ride on Champ, Nico De Boinville will be on Buzz and James Bowen will ride On The Blind Side.
“A lot will depend on whether Buzz stays three miles or not. His most recent winning form took a nice boost at Cheltenham on Saturday as Nigel’s horse Twiston-Davies [Guard Your Dreams] International Champion.
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“You can expect that he will keep his form on the Ballpark and the way he races, but as always, you never know until the day.”
Buzz was the overall favorite 7-4 for Saturday’s race after the 11 was left out at the entry stage on Monday.
Next was Thyme Hill at 9-4, with Henderson’s Champ 5-1 and defending champion Paisley Park 8-1.
Henderson added: “I guess it was a quest for truth for Champ. But now that he’s in much better form, we’re a lot happier.
“Over the fence he needs to be left-handed and getting over the fence means we can get here. He’s been in good hurdles form to his name and we know he stayed three miles very well.
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“If he goes well on Saturday then that opens up more options for us, we can’t say yet what the long-term plans for him are.”
Newbury’s Long Distance Race winner Thomas Darby was also left in the Ascot race on Monday and bookies rate him as having an 8-1 chance.
His trainer Olly Murphy said: ‘We’ve always believed in this horse and thankfully he showed everyone in Newbury that I don’t talk to him for no reason.
“He’s been called by a lot of names before so hopefully we’ve gotten over that by now.
“He came out of that race well and with these top stayers the race is self-selecting, there are only so many days you can target.
“This race looks to be tougher in Newbury, but we know where we stand and some couples still have some questions to answer.
“We’ll have to keep a close eye on the forecast and the final field, but he’s certainly more likely to run than not.”
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https://www.thesun.co.uk/sport/horseracing/17030329/nicky-henderson-buzz-champ-ascot/ Nicky Henderson to run three in Long Walk at Ascot as Jonjo O’Neill is called to Champ ‘searching for truth’