Captain Chris finished late and fast to deny long-time leader Finian’s Rainbow victory in the Arkle Challenge Trophy at Cheltenham.
Barry Geraghty had nearly all his rivals under pressure as Finian’s Rainbow jumped boldly and cleanly throughout, but Richard Johnson was always gearing up to strike in behind.
He produced 6-1 shot Captain Chris to challenge in the straight and Philip Hobbs’ charge joined Finian’s Rainbow at the last, galloping on strongly up the hill to win by 2-3/4 lengths.
Irish raider Realt Dubh was six lengths away third.
“He’s quite inexperienced and the first run of his life was only just over a year ago, but he’s improved all the time and this better ground was definitely a big help,” Johnson said.
“He’s such a trier as well and it was great of the owners to run him in this as they could have gone for the easier race (Jewson Novices’ Chase).
“He’d done nothing wrong and every race he’s run in has been a high-class race. It’s beautiful ground out there and they’ve done a great job.”
Hobbs added: “We’ve got it right now anyway! We’ve always thought he wanted two and a half miles (4000m) and, to be fair, I still think he does.
“He was at work quite a long way from home but his jumping was mustard. He was a little bit right-handed, he’ll always do that.
“He won despite the trip really, but he did have enough pace for it. I wasn’t sure beforehand, but we got away with it.
“He’s a gorgeous horse and people forget that he only had his first run just over a year ago.
“We were originally going to run him and Wishfull Thinking in the Jewson, which would have meant we had two very good chances in one race, but in the end we decided to have two shots at glory.
“My first thought for next year is the King George VI Chase. He loves Kempton and he loves better ground.
“The breathing operation he had was a big plus, but today has proved the old adage – that you need a two-and-a-half miler to win the Arkle.”