Witness looks reliable
Our man Jack Keene offers a horse-by-horse guide to the final runners for Saturday's £100,000 BetBright Chase at Kempton Park.
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Bury Parade (11st 12lb):
The rapidly improving Bury Parade heads the weights for Paul Nicholls after cantering to victory in the Sodexo Handicap Chase at Ascot. The ease with which he brushed aside a better-than-average field was the kind of performance that he'd always looked capable of producing with hints of his ability appearing fleetingly throughout his career. He has subsequently been hiked 9lbs up the weights, and although he could improve again for the step up in trip it won't be a cakewalk, as this contest looks to boast greater depth than his previous race.
Planet of Sound (11-8):
A grand servant to Philip Hobbs, 12-year-old Planet of Sound registered his first victory since winning the Punchestown Guinness Gold Cup in 2010 when landing a handicap over this course and distance in January. Off a mark of 148 he'd be thrown in on his old form, but age has taken some of the edge off of him and he may struggle to land a blow against some younger legs.
Trounced by Bury Parade at Ascot, Grandioso is now 4lb better off with that rival. Although on the end of a beating, it was a step back in the right direction having been pulled up previously. The Ascot run was the first time he'd encountered heavy ground and the return to a better surface will certainly be a benefit as he tackles three miles for the first time. He claimed the 2m5f Pendil Novices Chase on this card last year so will handle the track and he must run a big race.
Bless The Wings (11-3):
The nine-year-old has now dropped 2lbs below his last winning mark and he has run with credit on his only previous start at Kempton. His two attempts at three miles came in the midst of a bug within the Alan King yard whose horses weren't running to form, but even taking that into consideration he didn't look as though the trip was exactly what he wanted, and it's possible he'll find one or two too strong at the finish.
Midnight Appeal (10-13) :
Unlike stablemate Bless The Wings a test such as this is exactly what Midnight Appeal enjoys. He ran a good race over this course and distance last time when just held off by Triangular but remains 9lb higher than his last winning mark. The handicapper will have to relent before Midnight Appeal appeals as a win contender in this kind of company.
Whats Happening (10-12):
Tom George won this race twice with the dashing grey Nacarat, and What's Happening will bid to follow in his illustrious hoofprints. He is versatile as regards ground having won on good to firm and heavy and he's run well twice behind potentially top level novices Edmund Kean and Easter Day this season. He isn't totally ruled out for win purposes but nicking a place is a more realistic outcome.
Bally Legend (10-12):
Bally Legend seems to have been around for years but, only a nine-year-old, he goes for the BetBright Chase off the back of a second-placed pipe opener in a 'jumpers' bumper'. Though he won of 134 earlier in the season, he has struggled off every mark that he has been allotted above that through the rest of his career, and this is a tough place for him to try and buck that trend.
Venetia Williams has enjoyed a superb season thus far with 70 winners already on the board. Niceonefrankie is one of the 47 different horses to win for Williams this campaign, and he broke a 10-race losing streak to get his head in front at Ascot in November. He has shown all of his best form at around two-and-a-half miles, though, and hasn't cut any considerable ice over three miles to date. Whilst it's folly to rule out any Williams runner at the moment, Niceonefrankie lacks appeal in a race which sees him take on stamina-laden rivals.
Ardkilly Witness (10-10):
He appears to be getting the hang on things over fences now, having bolted up in a Wincanton Boxing Day handicap - for which he is only 3lb higher here - and running a sound race to back that effort up at Sandown at the start of the month. He has yet to run at Kempton but seems to prefer racing right-handed so should enjoy the track, he is versatile regarding ground conditions and has proven his stamina for three miles. Dr Richard Newland's eight-year-old is a key player here.
Standing Ovation (10-7):
A 30-day purple patch earlier in the season saw this seven-year-old rattle in four consecutive victories, culminating in a five-length success in the Badger Ales Trophy at Wincanton over three-and-a-quarter miles. It appeared that busy spell had caught up with him when well beaten at Cheltenham when last seen. He's 13lbs higher now off a career high of 133, but goes to Kempton a fresh horse after a 99-day break. The rapid progress he showed in the first half of the season offers encouragement that he could cope with this mark, and he's likely to be doing his best work at the finish having proven his liking for an endurance test.
Jump City (10-6):
Despite the fact that he doesn't always look the most resolute in a finish - although he battled well to force a dead heat in October - Jump City often runs consistently, which means his handicap mark has been rooted in the mid-130's for some time. He's already been beaten by a couple of the horses in the line-up this season, not appearing to fully see out the trip behind Planet of Sound in January, and even though he is a little better off at the weights he won't be winning this off his current mark.
Baile Anrai (10-6):
Took advantage of his lowest handicap mark in two years when winning a two-mile Leicester handicap in December. Ran an excellent race when second in the Sky Bet Chase back up to three miles last time and has only been raised 5lb for that effort. He carries definite each-way appeal if he reproduces that performance, but he has struggled off a mark this high in the past and hasn't run well at Kempton in the past.
Tour Des Champs (10-1):
Nigel Twiston-Davies' seven-year-old is undoubtedly well handicapped on last season's chase form, which included a third-place finish to Rocky Creek in the Reynoldstown. He's run desperately on more than one occasion since then, and bringing him back to the bare three miles looks the right move as he's struggled over marathon trips. Returns to the track for the first time since December and has a lot to prove at present though, so plenty of faith required.
Dr Richard Newland doesn't have many horses but he knows how to ready one and Ardkilly Witness has a strong chance in this. He's on a workable mark and is still open to considerable improvement over fences. Grandioso will carry a threat back on better ground, and the well handicapped Bless The Wings could run well at a big price if seeing out the trip.