Monday 20 November 2017

'Captain's worthy of Gold run'

Trainer Johnson insists Chris can prove he's up to Festival feature

Richard Johnson believes Captain Chris is better than he showed in last month's King George VI Chase ahead of his run at Cheltenham this weekend.

Last season's Arkle Trophy winner ran a perfectly respectable race in the St Stephen's Day highlight to finish third behind staying giants Kauto Star and Long Run.

The Ryanair Chase and the Cheltenham Gold Cup are his two options for the Festival, and Johnson is hoping for a big run in Saturday's Argento Chase to prove he is up to contesting the latter.

"The plan at the moment is for him to run in the Argento Chase. I schooled him on Monday and he felt very well," Johnson said.

"He's come out pretty well after the King George.

"I didn't feel he was quite 100pc there but hopefully he's coming back to himself and last year, in the spring, he really came to himself.

"Saturday will tell us a lot. I didn't feel he didn't stay in the King George, he just didn't travel and jump the way I know he can.

"He was fine, but he won the Arkle over two miles and has plenty of pace and he was a bit sluggish in the King George. It just didn't seem to happen for him.

"I'm pretty sure he'll stay the Gold Cup trip of three miles two (furlongs).

"He'll be entered in the Ryanair and the Gold Cup, but, obviously, if he can't put up a bold show on Saturday, he's going to struggle in the Gold Cup."

Pearlysteps could be given the chance to further test his John Smith's Grand National credentials at Haydock next month.

The Henry Daly-trained stayer finished a deeply encouraging second in the Peter Marsh Chase on Saturday, and is primed to return to Merseyside for the Betfred Grand National Trial on February 18.

"We were very pleased with how the weekend went," said Shropshire-based Daly.

"The way he stayed on at the end gives you the feeling we'll be stepping up in trip with him now.

"I'm also sure he'll be better on better ground as he has some good form on good ground.

"I'm not entirely sure what we do next.

"We've entered him in the Grand National Trial at Haydock, but it's unlikely he'll run in the Eider at Newcastle."

Of a possible tilt at the big one at Aintree in April, Daly added: "He'll probably have an entry, but we'll decide nearer the time."

Welsh National winner Le Beau Bai is also likely to swerve the Eider Chase in preference to the Haydock Grade Three over three-and-a-half miles.

Richard Lee's hardy nine-year-old was a valiant conqueror of the Chepstow slog, defeating Giles Cross by seven lengths.

"He's coming along absolutely brilliantly," said Herefordshire-based Lee.

"He worked first lot and then led a few youngsters over hurdles, and had a very nice pop.

"We couldn't be happier with him and he's bang on course for the Grand National Trial on February 18.

"He'll also be entered in the Eider, but I believe Victor Dartnall's horse (Giles Cross) will run in that.

"I can have absolutely no complaints with a 9lb rise -- it still gives us something to work with."

Le Beau Bai and Pearlysteps feature on a roll-call of 47 entries for the Grand National Trial.

Junior, the joint-favourite for the Aintree highlight, West End Rocker, Irish raider The Midnight Club and 2010 National hero Mon Mome are also in contention at this stage.

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