Champ still favourite for RSA Chase despite Dipper fall

Champ was a late faller in the Dipper at Cheltenham
Champ was a late faller in the Dipper at Cheltenham

Nicky Henderson's Champ was a late faller in the Dipper Novices' Chase at Cheltenham on New Year's Day, but the JP McManus-owned star still remains the ante-post favourite for the RSA Chase at the Cheltenham Festival despite his tumble at the second last in a race won by Midnight Shadow.

Having put in a few fiddly leaps during the early stages of the Grade 2 feature, Champ - who was runner-up in the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle last season - began to brush up on his jumping as he headed out on a second circuit of Prestbury Park.

Sent to the front by his jockey Barry Geraghty down the back straight, the eight-year-old put in some eye-catching leaps, and as the field free-wheeled down the hill the 4/9 favourite looked to have the race at his mercy, and he looked like he was going to maintain his 100% record over fences.

Turning into the straight, Geraghty was still looking behind him, but the dangers would prove to be in front of the Seven Barrows inmate who failed to answer his jockey's urgings for a serene jump at the second last and Champ failed to get any height whatsoever and bounded into the fence and sent Geraghty out of the saddle.

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Sue Smith's Midnight Shadow was the beneficiary of Champ's late fall, and the seven-year-old who won the Relkeel Hurdle on this card 12 months ago fended off Paint The Dream to add another Grade 2 to his improving CV.

However, the talk of the race at Prestbury Park will all be about Champ, but the bookmakers weren't quick to ease him in the 2020 RSA Chase betting - a race he started the day 3/1 favourite for.

While many of the firms have kept him at 3s for the RSA a few have clipped him out a point to 4/1, but Geraghty wasn't too disheartened in the aftermath of his mount's fall telling Oli Bell of ITV Racing that Champ's fall was that of a fall that is sometimes expected by a novice. He said: ""He was brilliant through the race. I'd say he was looking in the stands rather than at what was in front of him."

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