Hobbs expects Captain Chris to raise game in run for Gold


With just a week to go, Cheltenham Festival punters finally find themselves on that perilous brink between words and deeds. How, for instance, will they respond to Nicky Henderson's assessment of Simonsig's work yesterday as "breathtaking" and "simply fantastic"? After all, this is an odds-on shot in a novice chase. Depending on how things play out for the hottest favourites of the meeting – and Simonsig features among a cluster on the opening afternoon – there is potential for the stakes to be uncomfortably high by the time the bedlam reaches its climax in the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup.

All the talk suggests that this is an unusually open field. It could yet pay, then, to heed the reliably understated Philip Hobbs on Captain Chris, who remains widely available at 20-1. Running through his team yesterday, Hobbs declared: "Of all our horses next week, to me he is very much the one that looks overpriced."

Foiled by Long Run only in a photo for the King George VI Chase on Boxing Day, Captain Chris looked poised for another close duel – this time with Cue Card – when losing all momentum two out at Ascot last month. Admittedly, he cannot afford to repeat that error on Friday week, and nor is it ideal that he is more comfortable racing right-handed. But that did not stop him winning the 2011 Arkle, and Hobbs reckons him entitled to raise his game on several counts.

"He's definitely better on good ground, which he hasn't had for ages," he said. "And remember, he didn't have his first race until he was six. He should be reaching his prime at nine, and is possibly still improving. He has probably just lacked experience until now. And while people talk about the distance as a bit of a question, it could even be that he actually wants it.

"Kempton was only the second time he had tried three miles, and he was obviously staying on well. In fact, he had been flat out before getting into the race, which is unusual. He has travelled well over shorter distances at Ascot, either side of that run – so I do wonder whether there was something amiss. Anyway he was staying on very strongly when fourth in the Ryanair last year."

Hobbs does not pretend to know whether Captain Chris would have seen off Cue Card but for his blunder. "I can't think there would have been much in it," he said. "But we'd definitely have stayed on. Both horses had just come off the bridle when he stood off much too far and landed on top of the fence. The thing is that until then it was the best he'd ever jumped."

Another past Festival winner, Menorah, returns for the Ryanair. "I ran him over three miles in the Aon Chase," Hobbs said. "And while I think he probably stayed all right, he doesn't want that very soft ground." And Balthazar King, who brought his trainer's 16th Festival trophy back to Somerset last year, defends the Glenfarclas Cross-Country Chase as one of the favourites. "He's in extremely good form," Hobbs said. "He's a much better horse fresh, so we've deliberately not run him since November."

Better ground will suit Planet Of Sound in the JLT Chase, while Colour Squadron (Pulteney) and Sadler's Risk (Coral Cup) have evidently had their handicap targets for a good while now. Hobbs also reserves a favourable mention for Pistol, in cheekpieces for the first time in the Fred Winter. "He pulls up in front and I think he'll be much better suited by a strongly run race," he stressed.

In his 28th season with a licence, Hobbs takes a characteristically temperate approach to the crucible of his year. "I keep reading Paul Nicholls and Nicky Henderson saying that they would be satisfied with one winner," he said. "I'd say exactly the same – only I would mean it!"

Turf account

Chris McGrath's Nap: Dubawi Island (4.40 Southwell)

Disappointed at Lingfield last time but worth another chance restored to a surface he relishes, not least with a proficient claimer booked.

Next best: Holy Angel (2.40 Southwell)

Thriving since teaming up with apprentice rider.

On to watch: Realt Mor

(Gordon Elliott) was impressive at Navan on Saturday and must be respected if asked to run under a penalty at Cheltenham next week.

Where the money's going: Gevrey Chambertin

is 8-1 from 10-1 with Paddy Power for the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockey's Hurdle at Cheltenham next week.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'