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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
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
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is an excellent, large partially ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Primary Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...

Ashdown Group: Lead Web Developer (ASP.NET, C#) - City of London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Lead Web Develo...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee