Captain Conan destroys the opposition

Captain Conan defied a drift in the market to make his first start in the UK a winning one, and in Grade One company no less.

Nicky Henderson’s French import had a big reputation but is apparently a chaser in the making and he drifted out from 7-2 to 9-1 for the Tolworth Hurled, branded as the 32Red Hurdle.

Colour Squadron attempted to make all and with favourite Prospect Wells proving a bitter disappointment, it appeared he just had to jump the last to win, but he hung badly to his left, allowing Barry Geraghty in and a big leap at the last gave him every chance.

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With Colour Squadron proving difficult to keep straight, Captain Conan ran on to win by a short head. Geraghty said: “This is the first time I’ve sat on him, the boss was very keen and he wasn’t wrong.”

On Colour Squadron jinking, Geraghty said: “He did, but maybe the company would have helped this fella too, he was very green and will improve a lot.”

Henderson said: “It did seem a funny place to start him off but there was method in it, as the owners were over for the weekend and he is a very, very talented horse.

“I imagine it will be hard to persuade them not to run him somewhere in March but Barry and I think it could be a year too soon.

“He’ll be in there but I’m not committing him to it (Cheltenham) as he’s really just a chaser.”

Sarah Hobbs, wife of trainer Philip, who handles Colour Squadron, said: “He was very green and hung badly. I suppose he has thrown it away because he’s lost a lot of ground.”

Meanwhile, Hold On Julio looks a chaser to follow after making mincemeat of his rivals in the 32Red HBLB Handicap Chase.

Running from 3lb out of the handicap, Alan King’s pointing recruit was sent off the 5-2 favourite. Raised 16lb for a course win in November, the nine-year-old survived a couple of bad blunders to arrive alongside the long-time leader Qhilimar at the second-last before powering up the hill for an impressive victory.

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Top-weight Neptune Collonges stayed on dourly up the hill to take second near the post, but some nine lengths adrift.