Nicky Henderson may be without superstar two-miler Sprinter Sacre but Captain Conan can prove an able deputy in the BetVictor Queen Mother Champion Chase on day two of the Cheltenham Festival.
Undoubtedly the absence of the defending champion takes a bit of the shine off the race, but it is still a fair field and Sire De Grugy is justifiably favourite.
Captain Conan finished behind that runner on his only outing this term, when third in the Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown back in December.
He was beaten just over seven lengths that day but the distance does not do him justice as he was in the lead on the run to the last before a lack of match practice just caught up with him and he lost second on the line.
Captain Conan reportedly had low potassium levels following that run and also returned an unsatisfactory scope, two issues which have kept him on the sidelines since and is hardly an ideal preparation.
However, if you judge him on the best of his form from last year, when he did, in fact, beat Sire De Grugy over this course and distance and claimed three Grade Ones, Captain Conan would have to be right in the mix.
Red Sherlock puts his unbeaten record on the line as he tackles the opening Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle.
David Pipe has always thought plenty of the five-year-old and after a Listed bumper winner at this track back in November, the trainer gave Red Sherlock a couple of nice experiences over hurdles before stepping him up in class for a Grade Two assignment at Prestbury Park in January.
Red Sherlock kept on all the way up the hill that day to comfortably account for Rathvinden, and given he has a Flat sire in Shirocco, he clearly has plenty of gears and has shown he can operate on quicker ground, too.
A son of the outstanding mare Lady Cricket, Red Sherlock can achieve something his mother did not by notching a Festival success.
Ballycasey is a hot favourite for the RSA Chase and it will be a surprise if he is turned over after posting such an impressive performance in the Moriarty last time out.
CHELTENHAM tips: 1.30 Red Sherlock, 2.05 Ballycasey, 2.40 Clerk’s Choice, 3.20 CAPTAIN CONAN (NAP), 4.00 Quiscover Fontaine, 4.40 Orgilgo Bay, 5.15 Silver Concorde.