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14 Feb 2011 | 19:15
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Hobbs has grounds for optimismHeadlines
Captain Chris

Philip Hobbs feels Captain Chris will prove well able to adapt to the testing ground when he goes for glory in the Betfair Ascot Chase.

The nine-year-old handled conditions well enough to win the Amlin 1965 Chase at the Berkshire course in November, and then ran a tremendous race in the King George VI Chase at Kempton when he was only beaten a neck by Long Run.

"Ideally he wants better ground, but he won the Amlin on heavy. He seems in great form and he was always going to have a few weeks off after the King George," said the trainer.

"You can always supplement for the Ryanair, but the Gold Cup has always been the plan and we want to keep our horses apart. He ran a fantastic race at Kempton and is in very good form. He always had a tendency to jump right, so it shouldn't matter too much at Ascot."

Finian's Rainbow has something to prove after finishing a well-beaten last of four behind Captain Chris on his seasonal reappearance. Last year's Queen Mother Champion Chase hero has had a wind operation since then and needs a run.

"We've always said we don't want to run him on soft ground, but we haven't got a choice and there's nowhere else to go," said trainer Nicky Henderson.

"I'd have loved to have had another week, but I want to give him a run and we will be able to decide about Cheltenham after Saturday."

Colin Tizzard expects Cue Card's performance will tell him which race to go for at Cheltenham, the Ryanair Chase or the Queen Mother Champion Chase. The seven-year-old has to put behind him a disappointing display in the King George, when he failed to last out the three miles.

The trainer said: "This is a race we planned from Christmas to take in before Cheltenham. He didn't get three miles on heavy ground on Boxing Day. Whether he'll get three miles another day there, I don't know.

"Our view is if he's going to run in the Ryanair he needs to nearly win this. If he doesn't stay he can go back and take on Sprinter Sacre in the Champion Chase. We will keep the options open to the end, but Ascot should show us which way we are going to go at Cheltenham."

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