Captain Chris hard to oppose in Betfair Ascot Chase
Last year Captain Chris was narrowly ahead of subsequent Ryanair Chase winner Cue Card when making a terrible blunder two out in the Ascot Chase. The winner was still to be asked for maximum effort by Joe Tizzard but it was still a highly creditable effort.
Philip Hobbs trained Captain Chris for the Gold Cup but he seems to have developed a dislike for Prestbury Park since winning the Arkle Trophy in 2011. He tended to jump to his right that day, a trait that he had displayed to exaggerated effect the previous year when eventually pulled up by Richard Johnson.
He’s a different horse altogether travelling right-handed and won by 23 lengths at Kempton last month, leaving Champion Court toiling in his wake. The trip and ground pose no problem and he has a few pounds in hand of his rivals on official ratings.
His biggest danger is likely to be Nicky Henderson’s Riverside Theatre who won this race in 2011 and 2012. He beat Captain Chris in the Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon in December but he was very much favoured by the race conditions.
Captain Chris may not have been race-fit that day and is now 10lbs better off. Riverside Theatre looked a hard ride that day and was hooded and blinkered for the King George before unseating his rider at the fifth.
Stable companion Hunt Ball famously went through the handicap from an official rating of just 85 to one of 154 in 2012. He has joined Henderson after four unsuccessful runs in America and is likely to need the race.
The same is likely to be true of Alan King’s Medermit who returns after a 674 day absence through injury. The grey was only a length behind Riverside Theatre in the Ryanair in 2012 and second to same horse in this race two years ago.
Paul Nicholls is doubly represented with Rolling Aces and Kauto Stone. Rolling Aces won a Grade 2 at Down Royal in November but ran poorly at Sandown the following month.
Kauto Stone has been running over two miles and Paul Carberry is an interesting booking while Sue Smith’s Cloudy Too won the Rowland Meyrick at Wetherby on Boxing Day. The eight-year-old struggled in the Hennessy but seems to run his best races in smaller fields and has place claims.