Exciting times ahead for all of us here in BetBright HQ as tomorrow, Saturday, February 22nd sees the inaugural BetBright Chase take place at 3.50pm at Kempton Park.
Since the betting opened, Paul Nicholls’ Bury Parade has been all the rage, and that’s understandable after his facile win at Ascot (21f) last time. A word of warning must be issued, however, as the gelding planted himself at the start at Exeter on his previous outing.
The excuse proffered then was that the proximity of the saddling boxes, and while there was no hint of such recalcitrance at Ascot (when wearing a hood), he has reportedly shown similar reluctance at home. The start at Ascot was a long way from where the horses are saddled, but that’s not the case at Kempton, where the 3m start is in very close proximity to the racecourse stables. It’s possible that his earlier antics won’t be repeated, but if there is to be another display of reluctance, all the elements are in place.
Stablemate Grandioso is 9-lb better off for that Ascot defeat, and still looks fairly treated, but he has to prove he can stay the extra distance here. The 3m trip at Kempton is often cited as being a sharp one, but the bottom line is that the sharpness of the track is offset by the strong pace invariably set in quality chases at the Sunbury venue, and short runners rarely get home.
A look through this race’s roll of honour since its inception in 1988 shows that it’s often won by a horse with stamina in abundance, and previous winners Rhyme N Reason, Bonanza Boy, Desert Orchid, Mudahim and Rough Quest all went on to win a Grand National, whether at Aintree, Chepstow or Fairyhouse. This is fundamentally a stayers’ race, and the temptation to support those unproven at the trip is best avoided.
Ardkilly Witness, a former winning pointer in the mud, will certainly stay, and he’s unexposed over fences, running his best race when runner-up to Relax at Sandown earlier in the month. He’s in the hands of one of the shrewdest jumps trainers in the country, and Dr Newland will surely hope to eke a little more progress out of him. There was a lot to like about his Sandown effort, travelling best for most of the race, and not subjected to an unduly hard race by Leighton Aspell. His jumping was also much improved, and he certainly deserves to head the market on that evidence.
Standing Ovation looks underpriced at 9/1 on his return from absence, particularly with doubts over his effectiveness on the ground. I’ve read that connections are keen to pick up a penalty in order to get a run in the Grand National, but this is arrant nonsense, as there is no penalty structure for the Aintree event, and David Pipe’s best chance of success with the gelding will be in the Midlands version at Uttoxeter. Planet of Sound is another who is short enough, for all he bounced back to form to score over C&D last month. He had Relax behind there, but the race as a whole looked fairly weak, and he has much more on his plate now.
Of those at double-figure odds, the most appealing is Tours des Champs, who has failed to flourish as expected this term, but is worth another chance to build on his early chasing promise. His tendency to clout the odd fence remains a concern, and seems to be more of a hindrance in deep ground, but he’s only a 7-y-o, and the handicapper has been quick to drop him in the weights. Placed in last year’s Scottish National, and runner-up behind Balthazar King at Cheltenham in October, he’s sure to bounce back sooner or later, and the fitting of a visor may well sharpen up his jumping. He’s worth a saver, and appeals as one to keep on side when the sun finally begins to shine again.
BetBright Tip: Ardkilly Witness (11/2)
One to Watch: Tours des Champs (8/1)
To mark this momentous occasion, we’ve got a very special offer of Double Odds on the winner of the BetBright Chase for all new customers, accessed by registering on our Double Odds signup page – this kind of value won’t be found elsewhere!
Enjoy the race – if you’re one of the lucky winners from our free tickets giveaway for the event, do pop over and say hello!