Ziga the improving Boy for the BetBright Chase on SaturdayPublished February 19, 2016
The three-mile BetBright Chase at Kempton Park is a Grade 3 contest better known by its former name, the Racing Post Chase. It is always fiercely competitive and often throws up a good winner too with Rhyme ‘N Reason (1988) and Rough Quest (1996) both going on to claim the Grand National later in the season.
Last year’s winner, Rocky Creek, lines up once more but following several disappointing subsequent efforts, he is set to carry 11st 11lb in this race once again. However his trainer’s runners (Paul Nicholls) are not firing on all cylinders and on recent efforts it would be difficult to envisage this one becoming the first back-to-back winner of the race since Docklands Express in 1991/92.
Richard Johnson has ridden the winner of this race five times but, interestingly, he has not been booked by his employer, Philip Hobbs to ride the race favourite Champagne West.
So our selection is the seven-year-old ZIGA BOY who overcame 14 rivals when winning Doncaster’s Skybet Chase (formerly the Great Yorkshire Chase) at the end of January. The Alan King horse had previously brushed aside 12 rivals at the South Yorkshire track and he is quickly improving, quite possibly quicker than the handicapper can penalise him.
An alternative suggestion, as a potential additional each-way play, is Theatre Guide. The nine-year-old may not have won since November 2014 but he was racing off an official handicap mark of 149 then and on Saturday he goes off of 10lb lower.
His trainer, Colin Tizzard, has been in fine form this season and his horse faced a hopeless task last time against the likes of Grand Nation top-weight (and favourite) Many Clouds and Cheltenham Gold Cup hope Smad Place when receiving just 4lb in weight.
Shotgun can call the shots in Newcastle marathon
The Betfred Eider Chase at Newcastle is over a stamina sapping 4-miles 1-furlong. It too can throw up a Grand National winner – Highland Wedding (1969) and Comply Or Die (2008) being two examples.
Shotgun Paddy headed the betting for the last year’s Eider Chase and does so again for the 2016 running. Unseating his rider at the 16th fence 12 months ago he most recently finished third in the Welsh Grand National. Back in 2014 Shotgun Paddy won the 3m 5f Classic Chase at Warwick and was only narrowly defeated in the four-mile National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham’s Festival meeting.
A confirmed mudlark, Shotgun Paddy can build on his Welsh National result and with a soft surface forecast it is hard to envisage him not being in the frame back over a marathon distance given a clear round of jumping.