Ante-post favourite Bidbadjohn (Rebecca Curtis/Jonathan Burke, 10st 10lb) heads a field of 16 for the £80,000 Listed Sky Bet Chase (3.40pm) at Doncaster on Saturday, January 28.
The prestigious three-mile handicap chase is the richest Jump race of the year at Doncaster and Sky Bet are offering five places for each-way punters.
Bigbadjohn, the 9/2 favourite with Sky Bet is making his handicap debut over fences. He beat Our Kaempfer, an impressive winner at Kempton Park recently, by six lengths in a novices’ chase at Newbury on November 3 and was far from disgraced when beaten eight lengths by Thistlecrack in a G2 contest for novices at the same course on November 26.
Stablemate Potters Cross (Paul Townend, 10st 13lb, 16/1), successful in the Mandarin Handicap Chase at Newbury on his latest outing, also runs.
Second-season chaser Southfield Royale (Neil Mulholland/James King (5), 11st 7lb, 7/1) is set for his first start of the campaign.
He was the impressive 13-length winner of the G2 December Novices’ Chase over the course and distance last season and subsequently finished fourth in a high-class renewal of the four-mile National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.
But the seven-year-old disappointed behind Zabana on his latest start in a G1 novices’ chase at Punchestown in April, trailing home a well-beaten seventh.
Mulholland, who trains near Bath, said today: “Southfield Royale is as ready as we can get him at home. We haven’t had the most straightforward of preparations but he has schooled well and we are happy with him.
“He won twice on testing ground last season but that is just the way the ground was. He is a Presenting and his breeding suggests the better ground on Saturday should suit.
“We have the likes of the Bet365 Gold Cup and Scottish Grand National as possible targets in the spring. We will get Saturday out of the way first and see where we go.”
Gloucestershire-based trainer Jonjo O’Neill has an excellent record in staying handicap chases but is yet to win the Sky Bet Chase. He saddles Another Hero (Aidan Coleman, 10st 10lb, 9/1), who was fourth in valuable Listed handicap chase at Ascot on December 17, and joint top-weight Holywell (Killian Moore (3), 11st 12lb, 20/1).
Last year’s winner Ziga Boy (Alan King/Tom Bellamy, 10st 11lb, 10/1) and runner-up Coologue (Charlie Longsdon/Brian Hughes, 11st 5lb, 9/1) line up again. Ziga Boy is aiming to become the first dual winner of the Sky Bet Chase.
Nicky Richards is represented by two unexposed chasers in Ballyboker Breeze (Craig Nichol, 11st, 12/1) and Looking Well (Ryan Day, 10st 6lb, 20/1), while Warren Greatrex is hoping Out Sam (Andrew Tinkler, 10st 10lb, 8/1) can build on a promising third at Kempton Park last time out.
Champion Jump trainer Paul Nicholls has won two of the last nine renewals of the Sky Bet Chase. The Somerset handler relies on Scottish Grand National hero Vicente (Sean Bowen, 11st 9lb, 10/1) and Caid Du Berlais (Sam Twiston-Davies, 11st 6lb, 14/1).
Long Lunch (Charlie Longsdon/Graham Watters (3), 11st 5lb, 16/1), who was just touched off over the course and distance last time out, Katachenko (Donald McCain/Will Kennedy, 10st 7lb, 40/1) and the other top-weights Tenor Nivernais (Venetia Williams/Liam Treadwell, 18/1) and Third Intention (Colin Tizzard/Brendan Powell, 11st 12lb) complete the field.
Michael Shinners, Racing PR Manager at Sky Bet, said today: “The Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster on Saturday looks a typically ultra-competitive renewal.
“Sky Bet is happy to offer five places on the Sky Bet Chase, given the competitive nature of the race.
“All eyes will be on 9/2 favourite Bigbadjohn as he makes his handicap debut after chasing home Thistlecrack last time out.”
Sky Bet Chase – Sky Bet prices: 9/2 Bigbadjohn; 7/1 Southfield Royale; 8/1 Out Sam; 9/1 Another Hero, Coologue; 10/1 Vicente, Ziga Boy; 12/1 Ballyboker Breeze; 14/1 Caid Du Berlais; 16/1 Long Lunch, Potters Cross; 18/1 Tenor Nivernais; 20/1 Holywell, Looking Well, Third Intention; 40/1 Katachenko
Each-way 1/4 odds 1-2-3-4-5
Doncaster’s seven-race card on Saturday starts at 12.50pm and finishes at 4.15pm.
Sky Bet also supports the £50,000 Sky Bet First Race Special Handicap Chase (1.20pm) and the £35,000 Grade Two Sky Bet Lightning Novices’ Chase (1.55pm), both run over an extended two miles and runners for those and the other races on Saturday will be known tomorrow.