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Captain Conan can show Henderson’s strength and depth

| 06.12.2013

The news that the biggest draw in jumps racing will miss the Tingle Creek is disappointing for racing as a whole but a welcome fillip to those wanting a bet on Sandown’s Saturday showpiece.

Before his withdrawal the unbeaten chaser, Sprinter Sacre, was as short as 1/6 to begin his new campaign with a victory but now instead we have a 9/4 favourite and a fascinating market to get stuck into.

One man who will definitely be delighted is Gary Moore, trainer of the new jolly, Sire De Grugy. The seven-year-old was a really impressive winner on his return to action this season at Chepstow and although connections were slightly disappointed that he couldn’t follow-up that next time out at Cheltenham he arrives with arguably the strongest claims.

An archetypal AP McCoy ride aboard Kid Cassidy denied Moore’s charge that day but he didn’t lose much in defeat and has shown the appetite to bounce back from reversals throughout his career. Twice in his last eight stars he has won, lost and then crossed the line in front and the very fact that his handler thought him worthy of taking on ‘The Black Aeroplane’ provides plenty of optimism for would-be supporters.

Joint second favourites at 5/2 are Mick Channon and Venetia William’s Somersby and Nicky Henderson’s new number one for the race, Captain Conan.

The former let down a few wallets when getting the better of an under-par Cue Card in the Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter, form that now looks spuriously good after Colin Tizzard’s star swept aside a stellar Betfair Chase field next time out.

However, the popular nine-year-old hasn’t posted back-to-back victories since 2009 and plenty has to be taken on faith that Channon has revitalised his old charge sufficiently to produce another great performance.

Captain Conan has had no problem in sequencing victories together since he beat Sire De Grugy in The Arkle Trophy trial Race at Cheltenham just under a year ago. That was the first leg of a hat-trick for the Seven Barrows runner and there is an argument to suggest he should be favourite for the race, something that could materialise with sufficient support as 3pm approaches on Saturday.

Sent off a well backed 5/1 shot for the Jewson at the Festival last year, he could find no more in the last furlong as Benefficient and a few others swept by him in that agonising slow-motion scene so often created on the set of the infamous Cotswolds hill. However, he secured a consolation prize next time at Aintree when justifying favouritism to score impressively from Tap Night.

If ready for his seasonal bow – something that has been raised as a doubt in some of Henderson’s string after their reappearances this campaign – he has a leading chance and at the prices has to be the selection.

It is set to be an enthralling betting heat and hopefully an even more intriguing contest, but whilst there are reservations over whether Sire De Grugy and Somersby can maintain the levels that have propelled them to the top of the market Captain Conan will arrive with only his fitness to prove.

Which camp of doubts is best to be sitting in is questionable, but it would be just like a saddler as sagacious as Henderson to deprive the fans of the main attraction and still make off with all the gate money.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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Sam Foster