Past Winners » Captain Bertie


They have moved the inside rail a full six yards out for racing at Chester today. That is going to have two main effects. Firstly, it means that the inside draw advantage will be reduced at least a little, the track will not be as tight as it usually is and the cutaway in the home straight will be massive. Secondly, distances will be greater, so the 7f 122y opener, for example, will be closer to a mile.

Nevertheless, all things being equal, the first race is probably going to be run at a ferocious pace. With so many horses in the line-up who like to lead or at least race handily, including favourite Gandalak, it is difficult to think that this will not be a fast-run race, and that will be against Gandalak and in favour of Captain Bertie.

Gandalak is a likeable horse, and there is every chance that he will lead all the way, as he did at Newcastle and Musselburgh on his last two runs. However, the Newcastle race was run over six furlongs and, while the Musselburgh race was over seven, Musselburgh is a sharp track with an easy finish. This extended seven furlongs, almost a mile, with a contested lead, may not be what he wants. Add to that the fact that he is 9lb higher now that he was for his Musselburgh win (he was 3lb well-in at Musselburgh and he now has a 6lb penalty for that win), and I am happy to be against him at 3/1.

By contrast, Captain Bertie is over-priced for me at 5/1 or 11/2. He doesn’t have the same progressive profile as Gandalak has, but he is looking like a well-handicapped horse now on a mark of 91, his last run suggested that he retains all of his ability, and he should have the race run to suit.

Winner of the Spring Cup at Newbury last year on soft ground off a mark of 85, Charlie Hills’ horse ran a cracker in the Bunbury Cup at Newmarket last July to finish second to Bonnie Brae off a mark of 93, 2lb higher than today’s mark. His season petered out a little after that, but he ran a cracker in the Spring Cup again this term, improving for his seasonal debut in the Lincoln and running much better than his finishing position in eighth place suggests.

He travelled well through the race, he didn’t come off the bridle until the two-furlong pole, but he found himself on the far side, isolated from the protagonists when he needed to make his ground. He did run on inside the final furlong, but the race developed in an arrowhead formation in the centre of the track, and Captain Bertie had to make his ground closest to the far rail, which wasn’t ideal. As well as that, the ground was a little faster than he likes it. He will be much more at home on today’s easier ground. And, as a bonus, the handicapper has dropped him 2lb for that run.

He is a horse who likes to be held up and to make his ground from off the pace, so the likely strong pace today will be ideal, as will the extended trip (he stays a mile well) and the easy ground. He is well-drawn in stall two. While an inside draw may not be as big an advantage as it is when the track is at its tightest, it is still better to be drawn low than high. His low draw should enable Ryan Moore adopt a handy position not too far off the pace and allow the race develop in front of him before hopefully making his ground in the home straight when the field fans out.

Ryan Moore is a big positive. He rode the horse for the first time in the Spring Cup three weeks ago, and it is significant that he keeps the ride. Also, he is obviously a top rider, and it appears that he has worked out Chester on soft ground this week, as we saw yesterday with Ruler Of The World and even more so on Sir John Hawkwood.

Seanie is also interesting, but Captain Bertie is the only value in the race for me at this morning’s prices.