CHAMP 11/2 generally – 1 POINT E/W (4 places William Hill and Sky Bet)
A great renewal of the Long Walk Hurdle and I fancy CHAMP quite strongly in this. Before moving on to his credentials and why, I will go over the reasons why I am going against the others. West Balboa is head of the market and she is a horse who I like but she is stepping up in class and is rated just 143. She does get a 7lb claim which is going to be very helpful and I do think she is better than 143 but with the likes of CHAMP rated 157, Paisley Park 157 and Dashel Drasher 159, she has to improve again and at the price, I am happy to take on until otherwise proven at this level.
The same applies for Crambo who is rated just 142 by the handicapper. He couldn’t win a handicap at Haydock last time out so and although he stayed on strongly late in the race, if he can’t win that race, how can he go and win a Grade 1 against far superior horses? I am not saying there is no way he can’t win as he is a young horse improving, but to get him to improve to win a Grade 1 will take some training performance. For me I am not quite sure he is up this level but later in the season could find himself very well handicapped.
Paisley Park is always in danger in these races and he has won this race 3 times in the past, including last year, although last year it was rearranged and they ran at a different course (Kempton). He ran a solid race coming home 2nd in to Dashel Drasher in the Long Distance at Newbury but that was a hard race and only 20 days ago.
The same with Dashel Drasher he had a very hard race and although tough as old boots, that race may have left a mark.
For me the one horse who is absolutely primed to within an inch of his life is CHAMP.
Nicky Henderson has always said CHAMP is a much better horse when fresh so you can pretty much guarantee this has been his one target all season. He may be 11 year old but I am sure they will want to get another big win before possibly being retired at the end of the season. He won this race back in 2021 when coming back from a 274 day lay off, and I guess that tells the story how good he is when fresh. He also won the Long Distance Hurdle in 2022 when coming back from 230 days off the track.
Let us take a deeper look at his form when coming back from 100 days or more off the track. His form reads 2111211. From 7 starts that is five wins and two 2nds and from those wins they include Grade 1 and Grade 2 success.
The ground is also drying out nicely for him and the current form of Nicky Henderson is also very good.
LUCCIA 8/1 generally – 0.75 POINTS E/W (4 places, 1/5 odds)
Another Nicky Henderson horse that I like here is LUCCIA who we were on in the Greatwood Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. She came there cruising that day but just didn’t get up the hill in the rain softened ground, coming home 3d to another of today’s runners, Iberico Lord, who is the current favourite. This time around LUCCIA meets that horse 8lb better at the weights, on a different course and on better ground. Will it be enough to turn the form around? I am not sure if truth be told as Iberico Lord was very good but when one horse is 3/1 and the other (LUCCIA) 9/1, she is clearly the value in the race.
She has run around right handed courses twice in her career and won both starts and I can really see Ascot being a course which suits her style of running.
Until her last race she struggled a little bit with her jumping but last time out her jumping had improved massively and was pretty much foot perfect. That bodes well that she has finally got the hang of things in the jumping department. LUCCIA is a horse who has always been highly thought of by Nicky Henerson, so much so that she was sent 6/4 fav for the Mares Novice Hurdle last season. She came home 4th that day and it just tells me that on a mark of 136, she could be very in as I believe she will turn into at least a 140+ horse. E/W.