Captain Chris handed Gold Cup mission

Despite having had far from an ideal preparation ahead of bidding for the most prestigious prize in National Hunt racing, Philip Hobbs' Captain Chris will take his chance in the Cheltenham Gold cup 2012 on March 16 and attempt to de-throne reigning champion Long Run and his arch rival and living legend Kauto Star, writes Elliot Slater.

Such an impressive winner of last season's Arkle Trophy at the festival, and no less eye-catching when following up in Ireland seven weeks later in the Grade 1 Ryanair Novice Chase, many people anticipated that Captain Chris would be a genuine contender for honours in the big league this term having proved last season that he stayed two-miles-five-furlongs without any difficulty.

Hobbs has always had faith in the gelded son of King's Theatre who along with stable companions Menorah and Wishfull Thinking gave owner Diana Whateley such a spectacularly successful 2010/11 season. Things started to go wrong right at the start of this term though as Captain Chris blundered badly and unseated Richard Johnson having just taken the lead at the final fence of the Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter in November.  

Although he ran respectably when an 18-length third behind the brilliant Kauto Star in the King George VI Chase at Kempton Park on Boxing Day, connections had expected the eight-year-old to get closer to the five-time race winner, but at least felt they were getting back on track. That was until a dismal run from Captain Chris in the Grade 2 Argento Chase at Cheltenham in January when the gelding was never travelling and was eventually pulled up by Johnson after tailing-off and continually jumping to his right. Those looking at the Betfair Horse Betting will have been unimpressed.

Hobbs reports his star performer to be in great heart and showing no ill effects from his lamentable recent effort and is confident that whatever was bothering the horse won't do so again in the Gold Cup, a race for which last season's Arkle hero can currently be backed at odds of up to 33/1.

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