Captain ‘doing great’ in Cheltenham build-up

CAPTAIN Cee Bee is reported to be in fine shape ahead of his bid for the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham.

Trainer Eddie Harty is delighted with the condition of the JP McManus-owned 10-year-old, who is generally available at 14-1 for the two-mile chase championship on March 16.

Captain Cee Bee is already a Festival winner, having lifted the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in 2008 when he defeated the same owner’s Binocular. He was, however, the well beaten favourite for the Arkle Trophy last March.

He has not seen since finishing a disappointing last of four to 2010 Champion Chase hero Big Zeb at Leopardstown in December.

“He’s doing great. It’s all systems go and we’re counting down the days,” said Harty.

“Everything has gone according to plan. I’m just hoping he’ll be fit and well on the day. If he gets there nice and fresh we’ll see what happens after that.”

Meanwhile Philip Hobbs is delighted with the current well-being of his big Stan James Champion Hurdle hope Menorah.

Last year’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winner is second-favourite for the two-mile championship behind Binocular, and enjoyed a spin at Exeter earlier in the week.

He has not run in a race since seeing off Cue Card and Silviniaco Conti at Cheltenham in December.

Hobbs said: “Menorah is good, it’s all going well.

“He’ll get some very serious opposition as the form is working out well and all the major horses have come through their trials.

“But I’m very happy, and confident at the moment that he’s at his best.”

Looking at other members of his powerful Festival team, Hobbs said: “I will leave Captain Chris in the Arkle and the Jewson and I’ll leave the decision as late as possible.

“Wishfull Thinking is in the Jewson and the RSA. I wouldn’t have a problem with running them both in the same race as they have the same owners.

“Snap Tie might be my best chance in a handicap and he’ll go for the County Hurdle.

“He had a suspensory problem but he’s in very good form. He has a very good record fresh and I hope he has still got the same sort of ability.”

Hell’s Bay, ante-post favourite with some firms, has sustained a leg injury and is out of the Jewson Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham.

Trainer Colin Tizzard was forced to scratch the nine-year-old from the two-and-a-half-mile contest after a scan revealed the damage.

“He’s got a touch of a leg. It was scanned this morning and he’s not right, so he’s out,” said the Dorset handler.

“It’s only a small hole, but it’s there. It’s only a little bit, but we can’t take any risks so we’ve stopped.

“We’ll have him back in the autumn now.”

Hell’s Bay shot to prominence in the Cheltenham reckoning after proving himself a top novice with a victory over Medermit in the Dipper Chase at the track on New Year’s Day.

British Horseracing Authority chief handicapper Phil Smith feels he has given Garde Champetre a slightly better chance of another victory in the Glenfarclas Handicap Chase later this month.

Enda Bolger’s veteran has excelled over the cross country fences at Cheltenham, winning five times including twice at the Festival itself.

He will carry top weight of 11st 12lb, just 1lb ahead of stablemate L’Ami.

“Garde Champetre has been around the block and like all of us, he’s getting a little older,” said Smith.

“I’ve dropped him a bit. He was fifth last year off a mark of 161 and this year he has 157.

“He is now a 12-year-old and his runs since last year haven’t been quite as strong so we thought it was time he got a little help from the handicapper.”

Totesport Trophy winner Recession Proof is set to swerve the Paddy Power Imperial Cup on Saturday week and head straight to Cheltenham.

Connections had been considering a tilt at the Sandown race before the Festival, with a £75,000 bonus up for grabs from the sponsors if the winner should go on to success at any race at Cheltenham.

Trainer John Quinn said: “I think we’ll bypass the Imperial Cup and run in the Supreme and if he ran well without winning, he’d probably run in the County Hurdle as well.”

The Rock Of Gibraltar gelding is a 9-1 chance for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle with Paddy Power and 11-1 favourite for the County Hurdle.

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