Captain Chris produced another superb display to storm to a 19-length success in the Grade One Betfair Ascot Chase at the weekend and the Philip Hobbs-trained ten-year-old was duly cut in the ante-post betting for the Cheltenham Gold Cup, but he will still head to Prestbury Park next month with question marks hanging over his ability to perform to his best at the left-handed track.
He was exemplary at the weekend as he demolished some classy rivals in the 2m 5 ½f event and he is widely available at 25/1 for the aforementioned Gold Cup, but his tendency to jump to the right has often cast doubt over his Cheltenham ability, as he showed when doing just that in last year’s Gold Cup.
However, the former Arkle winner has shown in his last two runs, and in particular on Saturday, that on his day he is a real top class performer and if Richard Johnson can get him positioned favourably in the Gold Cup then he could be a genuine each-way candidate for what is fascinating renewal of the blue riband event on March 14.
An array of Champion Hurdle pointers emerged from an action-packed weekend and My Tent Or Yours cemented his place towards the head of the market as he eased to a facile victory in a jumpers’ bumper at Kempton Park. It had looked on paper that it was a steering job for AP McCoy and the Nicky Henderson-trained raider merely trounced his rivals with little fuss and it was the perfect workout for the Fighting Fifth and Christmas Hurdle winner and he will be a major player in the opening day showpiece on March 11 and is a 5/1 shot with Paddy Power.
Whilst the Seven Barrows inmate had very little opposition on the Polytrack, Jeremy Scott’s Melodic Rendezvous put his Champion Hurdle credentials on the line and he had to deal with Ladbrokes World Hurdle hope Zarkandar and the pair fought out a thrilling finish with the former just showing a better turn of foot from the last flight.
Scott’s stable star appeared to be struggling as he turned for home in the Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton, but Nick Scholfield cajoled him into contention and he picked up Zarkandar, who is now 10/1 for the World Hurdle, to land the Grade Two event by half-a-length and Melodic Rendezvous is now 25/1 with Bet Victor for the Champion.
This year’s Champion Hurdle is bubbling up into one of the greatest renewals in history with a multitude of classy contenders set to do battle in the Championship contest, but Willie Mullins may not send over Un De Sceaux, who yet again breezed to victory in Ireland to maintain his unblemished record over timber.
Sent off at prohibitive odds, the Co. Carlow inmate eased clear of some inferior rivals, but having won that contest Mullins erred on the side of caution and raised concerns about letting his up-and-coming star line up in the Champion Hurdle and he was duly eased to 14/1 with some bookmakers for the Grade One.
David Pipe’s Un Temps Pour Tout paid back some of his hefty price tag with an easy win in Ascot’s opener and the Pond House inmate is now 16/1 for the Neptune Novices’ Hurdle and could be an improver as the season progresses, whilst Celestial Halo disappointed at the weekend when well beaten in the Rendlesham Hurdle and last year’s World Hurdle runner-up is now available at an eye-catching 33/1 for the three-mile Grade One on March 13.