Nicky Henderson is favouring the Grade Two contest over an extended two miles as the next race for the exciting seven-year-old ahead of the Cheltenham Festival.
Last season’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winner has made a superb start to his chasing career with two facile victories at Kempton, and is already odds-on at around 8-11 for the Sporting Life Arkle Trophy.
Timeform's top-rated novice chasers (updated 17/01/21):— Timeform (@Timeform) January 19, 2021
160P Envoi Allen
153p Royale Pagaille
153 Chatham Street Lad
152p Franco De Port
152p Next Destination
152p Shan Blue
151 SKy Pirate pic.twitter.com/TrNsRC9HED
Henderson is also thinking of taking Floressa and Marie’s Rock to Town Moor for the Grade Two Yorkshire Rose Mares’ Hurdle, while Santini is likely to be the yard’s main runner at the Cheltenham Festival Trials meeting the same day.
The nine-year-old will bid for back-to-back victories in the Cotswold Chase, which he won in 2020 before finishing second in the Gold Cup.
“We’re unlikely to have too many runners at Cheltenham next week. Santini would be the obvious one and I think I’m swinging towards Doncaster’s Lightning Novices’ Chase for Shishkin, while Floressa and Marie’s Rock could contest the Mares’ Hurdle up there,” the Seven Barrows trainer told Unibet.
Champ is one of Henderson’s leading Gold Cup entries and last year’s RSA Chase winner is on course to make his seasonal debut in the Denman Chase at Newbury on February 13.
“Champ went away in the week for a serious piece of work and jumping session and was very good so the intention remains the Denman Chase at Newbury next month,” Henderson added.