Hard work for Conan at Sandown
Barry Geraghty in saddle
(Healy Racing Photos)
Sent off the 1/2 favourite, Nicky Henderson's promising chaser had to pull out all the stops to win the Grade One chase registered as the Scilly Isles Novices' Chase.
Held-up in rear as first Changing Times and then Houblon Des Obeaux made the running, Barry Geraghty never looked entirely happy with the way his mount travelled while his jumping, although safe, was far from spectacular.
He attempted to move alongside approaching the Pond Fence but struggled to get to Third Intention as Houblon Des Obeaux weakened.
Third Intention jumped the last the better of the pair and went a couple of lengths up but Colin Tizzard's charge has been known to idle in front and began to pull himself up as he hit the rising ground.
That allowed Captain Conan another bite of the cherry and the Henry VIII winner proved up to the task in clawing back the leader to score by a neck.
"It was definitely harder work than we thought. He jumped nicely, but I knew from the water jump it was going to be hard work," Geraghty told Channel 4 Racing.
"I know Nicky has got an indoor school which has kept them on the go, but I'd say he just lacked a bit of race fitness.
"I don't think the ground was an issue. He's a big horse who wants a lot of work. I would say two and a half miles is perfect for him."
Henderson said: "He did well to win. It answers one question as he wasn't going to win at two miles. They went a good gallop and he's a big gross horse.
"We were going to run him in the Dipper in early January and that was off then we were stuck in the snow. He's a big horse and just got a bit tired. He's had to hang around a long time waiting for this. He didn't win on the bridle but he jumped well and he stayed."
Alan King's Medinas (6/1) landed the William Hill Welsh Champion Hurdle at Ffos Las under Wayne Hutchinson.