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Henderson delighted as flawless Champ impresses on Newbury chasing debut

Champ made an impressive winning debut over fences in Newbury's KKA-Highpoint Beginners' Chase with a performance described as "perfect" by trainer Nicky Henderson.

The smooth success came exactly six years to the day since AP McCoy, the man Champ is named after, rode his 4,000th winner at Towcester and, while this did not have the same headline-making quality, it certainly made a substantial statement. JP McManus's dual Grade 1 winner was cut generally to 4-1 (from 8) for Cheltenham's RSA Chase.

Barry Geraghty held up Champ before moving up powerfully in the straight. With two big, brave leaps, Champ was able to forge clear of nearest challenger Dashel Drasher to score by three and a half lengths. The victory made it three out of three at the track for Champ, who won the Challow Hurdle there in December.

Henderson said: "You'd have to say that was just about as perfect as you can get. I was a bit nervous about going two miles six furlongs first time as he can be quite keen, but on the other hand by slowing him down a bit he had plenty of time to get into his rhythm and have a nice school round.

"It was great, he never put a foot wrong. He had a lot of respect for his fences and that's what I wanted him to do. He was a bit too quick when he was jumping at home, so we took him away to see a good fence and that's kindly helped."

Geraghty shared Henderson's enthusiasm about the son of King's Theatre, saying: "That was a lovely performance and he jumped nicely the whole time. You couldn't be happier with him, it's nice to get a good round of jumping and a win under his belt. I'm happy and there's a lot to look forward to this season with him."

No definitive target has been set for Champ but Henderson is leaning towards the Ladbrokes Kauto Star Novices' Chase on Boxing Day, a race the trainer won with Long Run in 2009. Last year La Bague Au Roi won this Newbury race before scoring in Kempton's Grade 1.

Henderson added: "We've got a lot of options now, but I suppose the obvious place is Kempton. You'd be pushed to get another race into him before then, but we'll sit down and talk about it. AP [McCoy] and the owner are in Barbados, so we'll think about it and see what they want to do."

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