No trainer has won the BetBright Chase on more occasions than Philip Hobbs (four times), and with the Somerset-based trainer set to send out Champagne West for this year’s renewal could easily make it a five-timer at Kempton.
His eight-year-old currently top Ladbrokes’ market for the race on Saturday at 5/1 and it’s easy to see why.
Having won two of his four chases as a novice before finishing second to Ptit Zig on New Year’s Day 2015 and falling when travelling well at Sandown on his subsequent run, much has been expected of the gelding this term.
Returning to the track after 11 months off, it took a monumental effort to finish second in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup at Cheltenham, beaten only by his well-handicapped stable-mate Village Vic who has since gone on to win another big prize.
Champagne West was subsequently sent off a strong 7/4 favourite for another Grade 3 handicap at Cheltenham at the end of January and was travelling well before a shuddering blunder all but ended his race, with Richard Johnson pulling him up soon after.
A crack at three miles for the first time over fences looks potentially a good move, with a likely slower pace set to help eradicate the blunders that the gelding can put in on semi-regular occasions.
Staying the trip shouldn’t be a problem either. He was fourth in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at the Festival two years ago and won a point-to-point over the distance before racing under rules.
Sired by Westerner, who has produced some tough stayers in recent years such as Cole Harden, Deputy Dan and Wakanda, the breeding says the extra three furlongs should be within his capabilities.
He comes into the race off the same handicap mark that he was allocated before his last run, and with eight of the last 10 winners of the race carrying 10-12 or more it pays to side with the higher quality animals in the field.
Hobbs saw fit to hand his charge a Cheltenham Gold Cup entry earlier in the season and with that still very much remaining a possibility (although the Ryanair Chase looks more likely) is obviously highly thought of.
He’s expected to run a massive race to oblige for favourite backers in Sunbury-on-Thames before returning to his favoured track at Prestbury Park.
All odds and markets correct as of the date of publishing.