Timeform's Adam Houghton previews the BetBright Handicap Chase at Kempton on Saturday...
"He deserves another chance to confirm the positive impression he created when winning at Ayr..."
The BETBRIGHT HANDICAP CHASE has gone by several different names since its inception in 1949 and the title that sticks for many is the Racing Post Chase it went as between 1988 and 2011. Four-time King George winner Desert Orchid took this race in just the third year of the Racing Post's sponsorship and produced a performance of astonishing quality in doing so, giving 28 lb and an eight-length beating to the Grade 1-placed Delius.
There is unlikely to be anything of Desert Orchid's quality among the 20 entries for the 2017 BetBright Chase, but Tea For Two did at least show himself to be a high-class chaser when fourth in the latest renewal of the King George, and Nick Williams' charge currently heads the betting for the feature race back at Kempton on Saturday. Tea For Two won the Grade 1 Kauto Star Novices' Chase over this C&D last season and produced his best effort over fences to date when three and a half lengths behind Thistlecrack in the King George 12 months later. That form is certainly good enough to suggest he can be competitive from a BHA mark of 158 here and he showed his well-being when making the most of a good opening in a graduation chase at Exeter last time. He will have to concede at least 4 lb to each of his rivals at the weekend, but Tea For Two is 2 lb clear of the field on Timeform ratings and should go well at a track that clearly plays to his strengths.
Double Shuffle is another who should be well-suited to the demands of this race, having landed a competitive handicap on his most recent outing over this C&D. He appeared to relish the step up to three miles for the first time that day, showing a better attitude than of late to hold off the attentions of Go Conquer close home, and proving better than ever in the process. He needs more from a mark of 149 here, though, and there are others with perhaps more in hand at the weights.
Caid du Berlais would appear to be one such runner, having now dropped to the same mark as when winning the Paddy Power Gold Cup in November 2014. He failed to get home when fifth on his most recent outing in the Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster, but has won over further than this in the past and the testing conditions may have been a factor last time. He shaped as if still in good form until fading close home, and should be competitive from this mark, with the likely sound surface expected to see him in a better light. His trainer Paul Nicholls has won this race twice in the last ten years, and could also be represented by Irish Saint and Southfield Theatre on Saturday. Irish Saint won the Pendil Novices' Chase on this card two years ago, but missed most of 2015/16 through injury and is yet to show his very best form in his first three starts of the current campaign. He also needs to prove his effectiveness at this trip, while Southfield Theatre was tailed off when eighth on his most recent outing at Cheltenham and has questions to answer at present.
Fingerontheswitch and Yala Enki are less exposed than most in this field over fences and can't be ruled out with the possibility of more to come. The former is in much deeper than when getting off the mark at Wetherby last time, but Yala Enki showed a smart level of form when scoring at Haydock on his first start over fences in Britain, and may have found the race coming too soon when disappointing just nine days later at Wetherby. He has been given plenty of time to recover from those exertions and is one for the shortlist having won the Lanzarote Hurdle here in 2016.
Indeed, course form is likely to prove crucial with so many having run well at this venue in the past, and Saturday's race looks set to bring together several of the protagonists from 12 months ago. Theatre Guide had Ballykan (fourth), VIVA STEVE (sixth) and Tenor Nivernais (pulled-up) behind when successful for Paddy Brennan and Colin Tizzard that day, but appears to face a stiff enough task from 14 lb higher in the weights this time round. Tenor Nivernais is of more interest following a devastating victory at Ascot last Saturday, but this would be a big ask after just a week off, and it is last year's sixth that makes most appeal at the current prices.
Viva Steve produced his best effort for his previous connections came when second to The Last Samuri over this C&D in December 2015 and proved better than ever when making a successful debut for the Fergal O'Brien yard at Ayr last November. His below-par effort in the Classic Chase at Warwick last month is best forgotten in the circumstances (blundered three-out and unsuited by emphasis on stamina), and the drop back to this trip is expected to suit. He deserves another chance to confirm the positive impression he created when winning at Ayr, and Viva Steve is fancied to provide the in-form O'Brien team with another winner.
Win back VIVA STEVE in the BetBright Handicap Chase at Kempton