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Champagne set to sparkle on chasing debut

Champagne West makes his eagerly awaited chasing debut in the 2.25 at Cheltenham today and is fancied to make it a winning one in a cracking 2m 4f contest featuring a host of potential top prospects.

Denman, Imperial Commander and Dynaste have won this contest before going on to glory at the Cheltenham Festival, and Champagne West is an exciting prospect held in the highest regard by trainer Philip Hobbs.

The six-year-old developed into a smart 143-rated hurdler last season, landing a hat-trick before posting a career-best effort to finish fourth in the Grade 1 Albert Bartlett at the Festival on his final start.

The son of Westerner, who was a winning pointer in Ireland before joining Hobbs, has the build to make an even better chaser and has been schooling well at home over the larger obstacles.

Champagne West is also regarded as one of the stables’ best hopes in the staying novice chase division and could well develop into leading contender for the RSA comes next March.

This is a very hot contest for Champagne West to make his chasing debut, but with the stable in flying form he is taken to come through the test with flying colours.

Of his rivals, stable companion Colour Squadron has the most chasing experience and sets a high standard off an official rating of 152.

The eight-year-old is yet to win in eight starts over fences but has run some cracking races to be placed in ultra-competitive handicaps.

They include a fine second to Johns Spirit in last year’s Paddy Power Gold Cup over course and distance, and an excellent third in the Byrne Group Plate at the Festival behind Balllynagour.

Those runs entitle Colour Squadron to the utmost respect, but the son of Old Vic is far from straightforward and has spurned plenty of good opportunities in the past.

For that reason I am keen to oppose, and two bigger threat’s to Champagne West could well be Dell’ Arca and Splash Of Ginge.

The former is trained by David Pipe and had some top class hurdles form to his name last season.

The five-year-old won the Greatwood Hurdle at this meeting and went on to finish runner-up to Splash Of Ginge in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury and a fine third to Lac Fontana in a Grade 1 contest at Aintree.

If able to translate that form to the larger obstacles Dell’ Arca looks sure to make his presence felt.

Splash of Ginge is trained locally by Nigel Twiston-Davies and left a disappointing chase debut at Perth well behind when running out an impressive nine lengths winner at this venue last time out.

The six–year-old readily drew clear to beat the in-form Ainsi Fideles with the minimum of fuss, but has to shoulder a penalty for that success and could struggle giving 8lb to the likes of Champagne West, Colour Squadron and Dell’ Arca.