Captain Conan in Command of Racing Post Arkle Trial
1 Captain Conan 11/10F
Captain Conan took the first step towards a bid for Cheltenham Festival's Racing Post Arkle Trophy when winning the same sponsor's trial for that contest.
The Nicky Henderson-trained five-year-old - a tall bay with scope for improvement - was making his chasing debut in today's race, but he jumped immaculately and eased clear of runner-up Sire De Grugy, who was beaten two lengths. Third Intention was a further six lengths back in third.
After Barry Geraghty had steered Captain Conan into the winner's circle Henderson said: "We've had seconds and thirds over the past couple of days so it's nice to get one on the board, but we had been waiting for him. I've got confidence in the horse and I don't think he touched a fence on the way round.
"He's very brave, and while Barry was just trying to get him to 'pop' the occasional one that's not something he does yet. He's got such scope."
The Henderson-trained Sprinter Sacre won last year's Racing Post Arkle Trophy, so when asked to compare the two, he said: "Captain Conan is not as flashy as Sprinter Sacre, but he has got gears. No horse is going to show you gears in this ground - they are not going to come on the bridle and quicken up to win with a burst of foot, but he's not a slow horse.
"He was second to [stablemate] Darlan at Aintree so he's proved that and I think he's a two-mile horse. He won the Tolworth in soft and he'd won at Auteuil in France where it is nothing but soft, so I wasn't worried about the ground.
"The ground may be a tad better today than yesterday, but I've no regrets at pulling Sprinter Sacre and Darlan out today. It meant I was able to go to sleep last night not worrying about them."
Geraghty commented: "It is a big ask for a horse to win here first time over fences. He was in front sooner than I wanted to be at the third last but he just came a live with me down the hill. He jumped brilliantly. He has the pace for two miles."
Captain Conan's victory gives Henderson another string to his two-mile novice chasers' squad, but the grey Simonsig is another for the Racing Post Arkle Trophy in March.
Racing Post Arkle Trophy Trial Novices' Chase
In the absence of trainer Gary Moore, rider Jamie Moore was refreshingly realistic after his mount Sire De Grugy chased home the favourite Captain Conan in the opening Racing Post Arkle Trophy Trial Novices' Chase. "He was a bit bold early," he said, "but he settled down and got his jumping together by half-way.
"He's a nice horse and he tried hard, but he just wasn't good enough and was beaten fair and square. He's a good horse, but not good enough today, and not top-class. I should think we'll find a smaller race for him and make a plan from there."
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