Trainer Nicky Richards is hoping to run both Ballyboker Breeze and Looking Well in the £80,000 Listed Sky Bet Chase (3.40pm, 22 confirmations) at Doncaster on Saturday 28th January.
The prestigious three-mile handicap chase is the richest Jump race of the year at Doncaster and the feature of an exciting seven-race card.
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.
Unexposed chaser Ballyboker Breeze (11st) enjoyed a comfortable success by four and a half lengths of a three-mile handicap chase at Bangor on 9th December 2016, taking his record over fences to two wins from three starts.
Looking Well (10st 6lb) is also lightly-raced over fences with five starts, although he has not run since staying on stoutly to win a three and a quarter mile handicap chase by 13 lengths at Kelso in May.
Richards said: “The plan is to run both Ballyboker Breeze and Looking Well in the Sky Bet Chase.
“Ballyboker Breeze has been fine since Bangor. He is training well and is probably an improving horse I hope.
“He travelled and jumped well at Bangor, and saw the trip out very well. I thought he was fairly impressive on the day.
“Experience is always a slight concern in a race like this but he does jump well. I think there are a lot more plusses than minuses regarding his chance.
“Looking Well is very well. I haven’t run him yet this season because he wants a bit of decent ground, which it looks like he will get at the weekend.
“He runs well when he is fresh and looks great at the moment. Hopefully, he will run a good one.
“They are both progressive horses and, even if one of them doesn’t win on Saturday, I think there are good races to be won with both.”
Bigbadjohn (Rebecca Curtis, 10st 10lb), the favourite with Sky Bet, is in line to make his handicap debut over fences. He beat subsequent winner Our Kaempfer in a novices’ chase at Newbury on 3rd November before going down by eight lengths to Thistlecrack in a G2 contest at the same course on 26th November.
Southfield Royale (Neil Mulholland, 11st 7lb) could return to the scene of his biggest success, having beat Coologue (Charlie Longsdon, 11st 5lb) by 13 lengths in a G2 novices’ chase over the course and distance last season.
Ziga Boy (Alan King, 10st 11lb) is out to become the first dual winner of the Sky Bet Chase. He defeated Coologue by three and a quarter lengths in 2016 and warmed up for this year’s renewal with an encouraging third at Doncaster in December.
The 22 confirmations also feature Regal Encore (Anthony Honeyball, 11st 10lb), who captured a valuable handicap chase at Ascot last time out, and Kempton Park runner-up Go Conquer (Jonjo O’Neill, 10st 11lb), plus the Paul Nicholls-trained trio of Vicente (11st 9lb), Just A Par (11st 8lb) and Caid Du Berlais (11st 6lb).
Tenor Nivernais (Venetia Williams), Third Intention (Colin Tizzard) and Holywell (Jonjo O’Neill) are joint top-weights with 11st 12lb.
Michael Shinners, Racing PR Manager at Sky Bet, said: “The 2017 Sky Bet Chase promises to be another cracking contest and, with all the main contenders among the 22 confirmations, it shall be as competitive as ever.”