Last season’s Stayers’ Hurdle winner will be blowing away the cobwebs before he gets back to competitive action at Newbury later this month.
The Emma Lavelle-trained seven year-old, unbeaten in five starts last term, is a general 5-2 to retain his crown this season.
Only Tiger Roll, 6-4 to win another Cross-Country Chase, is quoted at shorter odds than him for any race at the Festival in March.
Champ is 8-1 favourite for the RSA Chase and will make his debut over fences in an intriguing KKA-Highpoint Beginners’ Chase (2.05).
He stands out on hurdling form, albeit he faces some intriguing rivals, and Nicky Henderson has taken some early-season fizz out of him by giving him schooling sessions at Chepstow and Warwick.
Clearly, Paisley Park and Champ are a pair to go and get a closer look at but the afternoon also features several who are more under the radar. Here are five others to note on what promises to be an informative card.
Race: 1pm. Odds: general 11-2.
The Alan King-trained six-year-old offered little in three starts on the Flat in the spring off marks in the mid 90s but those runs came after a busy spell on the all-weather and it may be he was just in need of a break.
He’s had only three runs over hurdles, showing ability each time, and a rating of 126 for this handicap for conditional riders will be lenient provided a six-month break has revived him.
King has booked 6lb claimer Alexander Thorne, who has had three winners from seven rides since July.
Race: 1.30. Odds: at a general 9-2
There was plenty to like about Katahdin’s three bumper runs the season before last when he was trained by Lydia Pearce and he is interesting here having been switched to the yard of Colin Tizzard during his 18-month absence.
Fitness is unlikely to be an issue and his form stands up well. He was a convincing winner in the mud at Southwell on his penultimate start, beating subsequent dual hurdle winner Dominateur, and next time finished a close fourth behind the smart Emitom.
Team Tizzard is only 2-32 in the past fortnight but White Moon was unlucky not to win at Wincanton (fell at the final fence) during that time and they have also had eight runners finish second.
Race: 2.35. Odds: at a general 25-1
This is a hot mares’ novices’ hurdle for the time of year with Floressa, Silver Forever, Heaven Help Us and Vienna Court having already won in the past month.
They are likely to be the focus for many but do not ignore Farne, one of only two runners in the eight-strong field who have yet to achieve a win.
Her form in bumpers stands close inspection and she has a physique that suggests she will do well over jumps. Also, the Neil King/Bryony Frost partnership is flourishing.
You are clever than me if you can work out why she's 25-1, when Silver Forever is 2-1. There was barely anything between them at sandown last
Race: 3.40. Odds: 11-1 with Ladbrokes.
Amateur rider David Maxwell’s enthusiasm for riding is infectious and the 41-year-old is enjoying a great spell, having won nine of the past 19 races he has competed in (and been placed in six more).
He and Chef De’Equipe failed to make much impact together at Wetherby last month but the latter suffered a cut, apparently, and perhaps needed his first run in five months.
A repeat of his effort in this race last year, when a close second to Siruh Du Luc off a 2lb higher mark, would make him extremely hard to beat. Siruh Du Luc ran off 123 that day and ended the season winning at the Cheltenham Festival off 141.
Maxwell spoke to Nick Luck at Exeter on Tuesday after another winner
SON OF CAMAS
This Nicky Henderson-trained four-year-old was the talk of the Punchestown Festival before he before his debut in late April and was sent off 2-1 favourite for the 100,000 euro bumper.
Those who listened to the whispers were left with burnt fingers because Patrick Mullins got no response when asking him to go through the gears and the combination trailed home last.
Son Of Camas now reappears after an absence of 191 days and it will be fascinating to see which way he travels in the betting. He is surely capable of better than he showed in Ireland.
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