Horses To Follow » Captain Chris

Captain Chris

It was mildly surprising that Captain Chris ended up running in the Arkle and not in the Jewson Chase. Indeed, but for the fact that owners the Whateleys and trainer Philip Hobbs had Wishfull Thinking for the Jewson, you have to think that the two-and-a-half-mile race would have been the race for Captain Chris. Richard Johnson had been saying all along that he thought the horse had the pace to be competitive in the two-mile event, but you always suspected that his rationale was as much to do with the choice that he would have had to have made if the two horses had ended up with the same engagement, as it did to do with his faith in the younger horse’s pace. As it turned out, however, the rider was right.

When Captain Chris finished a staying-on second to Medermit in the Scilly Isles Chase at Sandown last month, he looked like a two-and-a-half-miler who would get further in time, so it was no surprise that Johnson was niggling him along from early in Tuesday’s contest. The other worry about him was about his inclination to jump to his right, which is no good at Cheltenham, which turns continually to the left. Johnson started the son of King’s Theatre off on the outside of runners, and he was a little right at most of his obstacles, but not markedly so. Going to the fourth last, his rider switched him to the inside, but he was still only fourth and he looked to be going as fast as he could as Finian’s Rainbow tanked along in front. He was straighter at his obstacles once he got to the inside, with horses to his right, which was encouraging, but he didn’t really look a likely winner (Realt Dubh and Finian’s Rainbow both appeared to be travelling much better rounding the home turn) until after they jumped the second last. He jumped the last upsides Finian’s Rainbow, and he powered up the hill quite takingly to win by an ever-increasing three lengths from the Nicky Henderson-trained runner, the pair of them clear.

The initial impression is that this was a good Arkle. Finian’s Rainbow has buckets of potential and he jumped really well, and the pair of them were clear of Noel Meade’s high class Realt Dubh, a dual Grade 1 winner, with the 155-rated and 157-rated Medermit and Ghizao back in fourth and fifth respectively. Furthermore, the time was the fastest comparative time of the day, the only time that dipped below Racing Post standard time, and it was over one second faster than the time in which the Champion Chase was run over the same course and distance the following day, on ground that was estimated to have been just a little slower. Captain Chris is only seven, he has raced just five times over fences, just 10 times in total in his life, and he is a hugely exciting prospect. The King George is the obvious mid-range target for him, he is proven at Kempton – he has won two hurdle races and a chase in just three runs over obstacles there – the three-mile trip on a flat track should be ideal, he may still be better on a right-handed track, and current odds of 10/1 about him for that race are interesting. Longer term, it wouldn’t be at all surprising to see him make up into a Gold Cup horse.

15th March 2011

© The Irish Field, 26th March 2011