Captain Chis pictured winning at Punchestown in 2011
©Healy Racing Photos
Captain Chris (7/2) got his season off to an impressive start with victory in the Grade 2, Amlin 1965 Chase at Ascot this afternoon.
The winner of the 2011 Arkle - from Finian's Rainbow - had failed to fire in four starts last season, often jumping out to the right, although his fourth place finish in the Ryanair Chase did suggest that all was not lost.
Hugging the inside running rail under Richard Johnson, there were no problems with his fencing on this occasion and he was always travelling well in the two mile three furlong contest.
Of his rivals, For Non Stop and Finian's Rainbow made notable errors and the King's Theatre gelding had pulled clear of them and Ghizao on the long run to the last (the second last was omitted) with only the obstacle between himself and victory.
Johnson saw a good stride and the eight year old cleared it with something to spare to earn quotes of 10-1 from 20s from Sky Bet for the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day.
He was chased home by For Non Stop as Ghizao weakened into third while Finian's Rainbow was allowed to come home in his own time after a bad blunder at the last brought the Champion Chase winner to a standstill.
Winning trainer Philip Hobbs, who had been struggling with flooded roads earlier in the week in the Minehead area, said: "He always jumps right on the racecourse, but his schooling has been a lot better this year.
"The King George would be the obvious race to go for now. He'd like better ground and was third in it last year, so I don't think the trip will be a problem."
Johnson said: "The ground would not have suited, but if he hadn't run today he might not have run until March given the weather.
"He jumped pretty straight and something like the King George would be on the agenda now as after that he deserves his chance.
"He's bred to be a stayer and has always suggested to us he would get a trip, even though he won the Arkle."
Nicky Henderson said of Finian's Rainbow: "Barry (Geraghty) told me to ignore the run, the excuse was ground, ground, ground and ground.
"They either go in it or they don't. We haven't learnt anything today and you wouldn't think about the King George if it was soft."