Timeform's Ben Fearnley previews the BetBright Chase, set to take place at Kempton Park on Saturday, and has recommended a bet.
"He is clearly well treated from a BHA mark of 139 if able to get back to near his best, and is worth another chance to do so on what will be only his second realistic assignment of the season..."
Champagne West is just shading favouritism for Saturday's valuable BetBright Chase, one of just a handful of similar prizes on offer before the Cheltenham Festival, which is now under three weeks away.
Champagne West was second on his handicap debut over fences behind stablemate Village Vic - who went on to win another Grade 3 at Cheltenham subsequently - in the December Gold Cup, and was naturally well supported for his next start in the Trophy Chase (won by Annacotty) at the end of last month. Champagne West might have gone on to justify 7/4 favouritism that day but for a bad mistake five out as he was beginning to make his move into contention. He is well treated from the same mark here, and remains with potential on just his third handicap start. He rightfully heads the market once again, and looks to be the right sort of price considering his opposition here.
Sat just in behind Champagne West with many bookmakers is Le Reve, who, like the favourite, commands plenty of respect after producing what was just about a career-best effort when winning the Masters Handicap Chase at Sandown for the second year running at the beginning of this month. In truth, there are few negatives to Le Reve's chances for this race, though he did shape as though he was in need of a stiffer test in last year's renewal, when he was beaten six lengths into second behind Rocky Creek. That stiffer test could well come in the Grand National, which will surely be his main target now, and he will be an interesting contender to watch here with a view to April.
Completing the trio at the top of the market is Ziga Boy, whose weak finishing has been a thing of the past on his last two starts, which have both come at Doncaster, most recently when winning the valuable Sky Bet Chase at the end of last month. The key to his improved recent performances could be down to the fact that he was away from testing ground, and considering conditions on Saturday at Kempton are not guaranteed to be as ideal and he is 8 lb higher in the weights, he looks one to take on given his current market position.
At around double the price of those already discussed, Theatre Guide makes plenty of appeal returning to the venue of his last win, which came in a graduation chase at the end of 2014. That was a much-deserved victory in many respects for Theatre Guide, given that during the previous season he was beaten just four and a half lengths in the Hennessy (third behind Triolo d'Alene), and was second to Welsh National winner Monbeg Dude in a warm Grade 3 handicap at Cheltenham from a BHA mark of 147. Theatre Guide has been below that level so far this season, but he has not been running without encouragement and was placed in the Hennessy for a second time when runner up to Smad Place on his second start. He was out of his depth in the Cotswold Chase most recently, but there was no shame in finishing third (once again behind Smad Place) given the conditions of the race, and should find things easier back in handicap company on Saturday. He is clearly well treated from a BHA mark of 139 if able to get back to near his best, and is worth another chance to do so on what will be only his second realistic assignment of the season, given that his reappearance at Wetherby was over an inadequate trip.
Others worth a mention include Paul Nicholls' pair, which includes last year's winner Rocky Creek - who dropped away alarmingly in the Denman at Newbury when last seen - and Ruben Cotter, who was last seen finishing fifth in the Topham at last year's Grand National meeting. Ruben Cotter makes the most appeal of the two at the weights, though he looks the second choice based on early jockey bookings and could have other targets in the spring ahead of him.
Thomas Brown currently has Noel Fehily booked and could yet have more to offer in this sphere (very useful over hurdles) on his handicap debut, but he was rather handed his last win on a plate by the frailties of his rivals, and he looks short enough in the betting considering this will be a much tougher examination.
Back Theatre Guide for the BetBright Chase at 13.0