Monday 26 February 2018

Cee-ing is believing for Harty

Captain Cee Bee will line up in the Irish Independent Arkle Trophy at the Cheltenham Festival Photo: Getty Images
Captain Cee Bee will line up in the Irish Independent Arkle Trophy at the Cheltenham Festival Photo: Getty Images

Nick Robson

Captain Cee Bee will bid to emulate the legendary Flyingbolt when he lines up in the Irish Independent Arkle Trophy on the second day of the Cheltenham Festival.

Pat Taaffe's Flyingbolt was the last horse to win the Supreme Novices' Hurdle and also win an Arkle in his illustrious career, and as a legend of the game he has a race named after him at Navan.

Unfortunately injury has prevented Captain Cee Bee pulling off the feat in successive seasons but he will face the starter as the likely favourite in the novice championship.

In winning the Supreme, Captain Cee Bee fulfilled a family dream as Eddie Harty's clan have been involved in racing for generations, and the horse is in fact named after the trainer's grandfather.

"We knew he was going to be a fair horse from day one and, as time went on, he started to look the real deal, even before his first run," said Harty.

"My father had named him after my grandfather, which was a brave call because usually these things go pear-shaped and come back to haunt you."

After running in bumpers, where his only victory came over Queen Mother candidate Big Zeb, he had three runs on the Flat.

"The real making of him was actually when he had those runs on the Flat in 2007 - Kevin Manning rode him a couple of times," Harty went on.

"The horse really learned from having a top-flight professional Flat jockey on him and going over a shorter trip on decent ground.

"He won at Killarney by nine lengths and J P (McManus, owner, who subsequently purchased Captain Cee Bee) happened to be watching the race and he was very impressed with the speed he showed."

Two easy victories over hurdles followed but he did not run for four months before winning the Supreme

"We didn't plan to give Captain Cee Bee such a long break before Cheltenham in 2008 but the weather conspired against us," added Harty.

"It was bottomless ground for the Royal Bond Novices' Hurdle at Fairyhouse and we didn't want to risk him, so we gave him a little break that December.

"He was supposed to run at Punchestown in early February but there was a mini-blizzard during the first race, and the field were finishing like drunken sailors, so we pulled the plug on that run as well."

Harty had a bit of a setback when he learned the day before the race that McManus' jockey Tony McCoy had chosen to ride Nicky Henderson's Binocular.

"AP was all set to ride him but I was told at 9.55am on the Monday that he was going to be riding Binocular instead, so there was a bit of a panic until I found out that Robert Thornton was available," he said.

"I had no hesitation in getting him to ride Captain Cee Bee because he rides Cheltenham so well and I knew the horse wasn't going to lack from the saddle if he was on board.

"I was talking to Robert before the race and I told him the one thing that would beat us would be stamina, so he should get to the front no sooner than the last and if the horse is good enough, he is good enough.

"Robert rode him to perfection - once he came on to the good ground, it was like taking a Ferrari off gravel and putting it on tarmac. He was going away at the end and, if you take Captain Cee Bee out of the race, then Binocular was an easy winner.

"Sometimes, you are possibly better off going to Cheltenham one gallop too short as opposed to one gallop too many."

He went on: "My family have been associated with steeplechasing long before the original Captain Cee Bee and nobody had managed a winner at the Festival.

"So it was the whole package to win with a horse named by my father after his father for J P McManus - it was a relief to get the monkey off the Harty family back. He was my first runner in England and he did the business.

"Having won the Supreme, there is always the temptation to return for the Champion Hurdle the following season.

"But we always thought of Captain Cee Bee as more of a chaser and Binocular was the ideal candidate to carry the hurdling flag for J P McManus.

"We didn't want to delay his career over fences but he got a leg days before he was due to run and ended up missing the whole of the 2008/09 campaign.

"My wife Marie, who is also my vet, picked it up very quickly and between her quick diagnosis and the care he received from J P McManus' camp, meant that he came back at the end of last year raring to go.

"He has won twice now on very heavy ground and he can handle it now because he is a stronger horse.

"Conditions on his latest start at Naas were far from ideal but, whereas two years ago it wouldn't have been fair to run him, this time it wouldn't have been fair not to run him because he enjoys racing so much."

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