The BetBright Chase, formerly the Racing Post Chase, is run over three miles at Kempton (3.35pm Saturday live on CH4 TV).
The roll of honour includes Desert Orchid, as well as subsequent Grand National winners Rhyme ‘N’ Reason and Rough Quest and, despite the lack of such notable winners in recent years, it remains a prestigious and valuable race in its own right.
Philip Hobbs, who has won the BetBright Chase four times, is responsible for this year’s favourite, Champagne West (5/1). The eight-year-old never really recovered from an appalling blunder, when travelling well, at Cheltenham last time and is probably better judged on his second of 14, beaten 4½ lengths, behind Village Vic in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup over the same course and distance in December. However his jumping has never been error free.
Despite a 4lb rise in the weights, Champagne West is 4lb better off for the length he beat Tenor Nivernais (12/1) on that occasion and having won a point-to-point over three miles earlier in his career, looks to have bright prospects.
Tenor Nivernais did the form no harm when going down by 1¼ to Annacotty in a big handicap chase over 2m5f at Cheltenham last month, off a 4lb lower mark. However, Venetia Williams’ none-year-old has failed to trouble the judge in all four attempts at or beyond three miles, including this race last year when off a 17lb lower mark, so may be set to struggle once again.
French import Ziga Boy (6/1) is in his second season with Alan King (pictured), but has suddenly discovered a rich vein of form that has seen him rise 24lb in the weights since late December. He beat Godsmejudge by seven lengths, eased down, in a 0-135 contest over three miles at Doncaster in December and defied a 16lb rise in the weights when beating Coologue by 3½ lengths in the Sky Bet Chase, over the same course and distance, the following month. He is up another 8lb here, but three miles on a flat track clearly suits him admirably and there is no telling where his improvement may end. The yard remains in flying form with a 20% winning strike-rate and 62% of runners this season finishing in the first four.
Rocky Creek (16/1) gave Le Reve (13/2) 8lb and a decisive six-length beating in this race last year and, as the result of some indifferent forming the interim, is just 1lb worse off this time. Paul Nicholls’ 10-year-old wears blinkers for the first time after being beaten out of sight by three lower-rated rivals when favourite for the Denman Chase at Newbury two weeks ago and, although just 4lb higher in the weights than last year, he has questions to answer at present.
Le Reve finished 24 lengths behind Ziga Boy in the Sky Bet Chase, but has since won at Sandown and reopposes on just 5lb better terms. Lucy Wadham’s eight-year-old is back on a career-high mark and it is surprising that he is as short in the market as he is.
I prefer the look of improving novice chaser Thomas Brown (8/1), who is one of the few in this race on an upward curve. Looking at the ones at the top of the market, Champagne West makes jumping mistakes and Le Reve seems to be handicapped on his Sandown form, a venue he always runs best at. So ZIGA BOY may be the answer.