Oh Captain, my Captain
Nic Doggett's horse by horse guide to Saturday's Betfair Ascot Chase at the Berkshire venue.
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Stamped his class on proceedings at Kempton last month, beating Champion Court by an eased-down 23 lengths. His record on right-handed tracks reads 4-1-1-2-1-1-UR-3-1-2-2-4-3-1 and the favourite represents a Phillip Hobbs yard in very good form at present; they're operating at a 20% strike-rate, some 7% better than in recent years. This son of King's Theatre handles soft ground very well and he's undoubtedly the horse to beat.
Has 12lbs to find with Captain Chris but has won two of his three starts this season, including a comprehensive defeat of Tullamore Dew in the Roland Meyrick on Boxing Day. Has now won five of his seven starts which have come on ground described as soft or heavy, and must be considered a solid place prospect if within striking distance turning for home (last two starts have been over further).
An interesting contender, albeit one with lots to prove. Made giant strides for Keiran Burke back in 2011/12, but his progress came to a halt last year and his high profile owner Anthony Knott sent him to the sales where he was bought to race in America. Four poor performances followed and he was sent back to the UK, to his new trainer Nicky Henderson. His mark of 161 makes handicaps unfeasible and this looks a tough race in which to return, especially on ground considered much too testing by his previous connections.
Paul Carberry is an interesting jockey booking for a horse who looks to have lost his confidence since landing the JNWine.com Champion Chase back in November 2012. Last seen finishing a very distant third in the Clarence House and this longer trip will help his cause, although the application of blinkers looks to have had just a minimal effect. Very hard to fancy.
Returns from a 674-day absence for a yard who enjoyed three winners last Saturday, and has the form in the book to suggest that he is a threat to favourite Captain Chris; he beat that rival in the Scilly Isles as a novice in 2011, before finishing fourth behind him in the Arkle. He handles soft ground and although this looks a testing reappearance, he's not to be underestimated.
Is unbeaten in three starts at Ascot, and like Captain Chris, he has a fine record going right-handed. However the wheels came off in spectacular style in the King George when he jumped ponderously in a first-time hood/blinkers combo, culminating in unshipping his rider at the fifth fence. Connections retain the blinkers but hard to have the same level of confidence in him after that run. However it's interesting that connections felt they had 'sorted a few things' before his Peterborough Chase win and is a threat if back on song today.
Looked sure to be the winner at Sandown in December but, despite jumping well, faded badly after the second-last and was well-beaten by Vino Griego. That run came on good ground however and he should relish the much more testing conditions today, as well as the drop in trip. Still a horse of great potential but slightly disconcerting to see cheek-pieces applied already.
Has three stone to find with Captain Chris and likely to be left behind at an early stage.
CAPTAIN CHRIS is the class-act in the field and he looked back to his very best when running away from a decent field at Kempton last month.
His stable is flying, as is his jockey, the ground suits and there is little reason to try and look beyond the obvious.
That's not to say that there aren't dangers mind you, with Riverside Theatre the obvious fly in the ointment.
However the headgear looked to have a negative effect last time and connections must be hoping that a return to his beloved Ascot sparks him back to life.
Medermit looks to face a tough task on this belated return to the track, and the bigger danger is the mud-loving Rolling Aces ahead of the strong-stayer Cloudy Too.