Everything in His Favour for Chris
Richard Johnson believes Captain Chris has “everything in his favour” as he makes his seasonal return in the Betfred Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon on Thursday.
The Philip Hobbs-trained nine-year-old enjoyed an excellent campaign last time around, once again showing his preference for right-handed tracks with good runs at Ascot sandwiching his excellent effort to finish a neck second to Long Run in the King George VI Chase at Kempton.
He was due to make his return in last month’s Amlin 1965 Chase at Ascot, but missed out after a slight setback and instead gives weight to six talented opponents in Huntingdon’s Grade Two feature, with Johnson anticipating a bold show.
“It’ll be great to get him back on the racecourse again. He seems very well at home and I’m looking forward to riding him,” he said.
“Apart from the small hiccup which forced him to miss Ascot, which was something and nothing really, everything has gone very smoothly.
“The Ascot race was the plan, but after he missed that this was an obvious place for him to come. The dry weather we’ve been having means he should get his ground, so everything is in his favour.”
With the King George only a fortnight after the Peterborough, Hobbs admitted earlier this month there has to be some doubt about Captain Chris turning up for the Boxing Day highlight.
Asked about the task of running in both races, the jockey said: “That is the only worry, but at the same time, if he can’t perform well in this race, the King George isn’t going to be a realistic target anyway.”
The horse likely to give Captain Chris most to think about at the weights is Riverside Theatre, who receives 10lb despite being rated only 2lb inferior.
However, Nicky Henderson’s 2012 Ryanair Chase hero failed to rediscover that level of form in three starts last season.
Another horse on something of a recovery mission is Martin Keighley’s stable star Champion Court.
The usually consistent eight-year-old was a disappointing seventh when favourite for last month’s Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham, but Keighley believes there are valid excuses for that below-par effort.
“He was disappointing in the Paddy Power as he didn’t travel in the way that we know he can. He was in a bit of discomfort afterwards and might have had a touch of colic,” said the trainer.
“That is the only thing that I can put it down to explain the way that he travelled. He’ll like the ground and the distance and Huntingdon will suit. Captain Chris looks the main one to beat.”
Tom George’s Module steps up in distance having pushed Somersby all the way in the Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter in early November.
George said: “This has been the plan since the Haldon Gold Cup and I think this is more his trip, although he’ll get even further in time. We think he’ll be a three miler.
“He was unlucky at Exeter as he got badly hampered down the back (straight) and he ended up in front a bit too soon.
He’s still a very young horse and has only had five runs over fences, so he’s inexperienced and learning all the time.”
The Paul Nicholls-trained Ghizao won first time out last season before his form tailed off and the Ditcheat handler feels he is at his best after a break.
Nicholls said: “It will be a competitive race, but he’s in good form and the key to him is that he’s best fresh.”
The field is completed by Steve Gollings’ Old Roan Chase winner Conquisto and Paul Webber’s talented mare Alasi.
Source: Sportinglife 11 December 2013
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