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Champ set to return in Denman Chase

Champ is set to put his Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup claims on the line in the Betfair Denman Chase at Newbury on Saturday.

The nine-year-old is among 10 entries for the Grade Two contest over three miles.

Trained by Nicky Henderson, Champ has not raced since winning the RSA Chase at Cheltenham in March due to several minor issues, but is ready to return to action.

“Nicky’s very happy with him and the plan is to run there,” said Frank Berry, racing manager to owner JP McManus.

“He’s had a few niggly problems, but he seems to be back now. Lets hope the racing is on and we get there on Saturday.

“We’ll be looking to be forward to it and hope everything goes well.

Clan Des Obeaux could take on Champ at Newbury
Clan Des Obeaux could take on Champ at Newbury (Steven Paston/PA)

“It would be most important to get a run into him before the Gold Cup.”

Champ’s potential rivals are headed by Paul Nicholls’ dual King George VI Chase winner Clan Des Obeaux and the Colin Tizzard-trained Lostintranslation, who was third in last year’s Gold Cup.

Nicholls can also call on Secret Investor while the list is completed by Aso, Ballyoptic, Cepage, Definitly Red, Kalashnikov and The Conditional.

Altior has just five possible rivals as he bids to win the Betfair Cheltenham Free Bet Pot Builder Chase for a fourth time.

The dual Queen Mother Champion Chase hero will attempt to get back on track after being beaten by Nube Negra on his reappearance at Kempton in December.

The Alan King-trained Sceau Royal, runner-up to Altior in this race 12 months ago, is in the mix with Fanion D’Estruval, Greanateen, Magic Saint and Sky Pirate completing the sextet.

Easysland all set for Glenfarclas Handicap defence

Easysland will try to get back on track in the Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Chase at Cheltenham next week.

The six-year-old, trained in France by David Cottin, was surprisingly beaten on his seasonal debut when only fourth to Kingswell Theatre over the course and distance last month.

He was odds-on favourite that day despite the presence of Tiger Roll, having beaten the dual Grand National hero comprehensively at the Cheltenham Festival in March.

All is reported well with Easysland, who bids to make amends next Friday in a race he won 12 months ago – after which he changed ownership and was bought privately by JP McManus.

“The plan is hopefully for him to come to Cheltenham next week,” said McManus’ racing manager Frank Berry.

“He was disappointing the last day. But it his was his first run, and they tell me he’s come out of the race well, so we’d be hoping for a better run the next day.”

Easysland set for Cheltenham return

Easysland will try to make it three wins from as many appearances at Cheltenham when he returns to Britain for the Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Chase on Friday.

Trained in France by David Cottin, the six-year-old is the new kid on the block in that sphere, having toppled Tiger Roll with a dominant performance at the Festival in March.

Easysland had impressed on his first visit to the Cotswolds in December after winning the Grand Steeplechase Cross Country de Compiegne in November.

It was after his first win at Cheltenham that owner JP McManus stepped in to buy the gelding.

Connections have decided to bypass Compiegne this year and go to Cheltenham instead – where he could face an early rematch with Tiger Roll.

“The plan is to come to Cheltenham,” said McManus’ racing manager, Frank Berry.

““Everyone is very happy with him. It will be nice to see him back there, and the ground and everything should be good.

“With a bit of luck he’ll stay in one piece and give a good account of himself.”

No plans for McManus to fill Geraghty role

Racing manager Frank Berry has reiterated there are no plans to replace Barry Geraghty as retained rider for owner JP McManus in the UK.

The McManus team will continue to use the best jockeys for their horses which are scattered around a host of top trainers, including Nicky Henderson, Paul Nicholls, Jonjo O’Neill, Philip Hobbs, Alan King and Harry Fry.

In Ireland, Mark Walsh has continued to be retained by McManus since Geraghty retired in July.

“There are no plans at all. Everything is the same as it was. We are carrying on as normal,” said Berry.

The Champion Hurdle will again be Epatante's main objective
The Champion Hurdle will again be Epatante’s main objective (Simon Cooper/PA)

One of the star rides up for grabs this season will be Epatante, whose main aim will be to hang on to her Champion Hurdle crown.

The Nicky Henderson-trained mare was one of five winners for Geraghty at this year’s Cheltenham Festival.

“Nicky is very happy with her. We don’t know at the minute where she will start off. She has a good few options. We’ll see when she’s ready,” said Berry.

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“The Champion Hurdle is definitely the target.”

Buveur D’Air has been off the track since suffering an injury at Newcastle
Buveur D’Air has been off the track since suffering an injury at Newcastle (PA)

Berry reported Buveur D’Air to be well on the road to recovery after being injured when bidding to win the Fighting Fifth Hurdle for the third year running at Newcastle in November.

The nine-year-old underwent surgery following his narrow defeat by Cornerstone Lad after he returned with a splinter of wood in his foot.

“He’s back in Nicky’s and it’s so far, so good,” said Berry.

“It’s taken him a long time to get over the injury, but he’s back being ridden out and we’re just taking it day by day with him.

“He’ll tell us when he’s ready. He’s on the road back and it would be great to see him again.”

McManus has an exciting young hurdler in Saint Roi, who won the highly-competitive County Handicap Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.

The five-year-old, trained by Willie Mullins, made an impressive return to action when winning a Grade Three contest at Tipperary at the weekend.

Saint Roi is likely to run next in the WKD Hurdle at Down Royal at the end of the month.

“He did it nicely the other day. The conditions of the race suited him well,” said Berry.

“I think Willie is thinking of going to the north with him.”

Easysland has the Cheltenham Festival on his agenda again
Easysland has the Cheltenham Festival on his agenda again (Simon Cooper/PA)

McManus’s champion cross-country performer, Easysland, has the Cheltenham Festival has his main objective again.

He purchased the David Cottin-trained six-year-old after his victory at Cheltenham in December.

“The plan will be to come back for the cross-country,” said Berry.

“He’s very well. They are happy with him. I’m sure if there is a race they will give him a run over there before he comes back to England.

“He’ll stick to the cross-country route. It’s a possibility he could go to Cheltenham before the Festival. There is nothing written in stone.”