It’s next stop Cheltenham for Fingal Bay who will bid to keep his unbeaten record on the line when he contests the Neptune Investments Management Novices’ Hurdle on Wednesday March 14th.
Trainer Philip Hobbs knew he had something special on his hands when the son of King’s Theatre bolted up by 22 lengths on his racecourse bow at Exeter in February 2011, but it was decided to give the Champion Bumper a miss with an eye to the future.
As anyone looking for Cheltenham tips will know the patience has been well and truly rewarded up to now, with four successive victories over hurdles, the first three all Grade 2 events. In the last of those at Sandown, the six-year-old showed terrific stamina up the steep finish to see off the spirited challenge of Nicky Henderson’s Simonsig who, in truth, appeared to going the better until push came to shove.
His latest victory in the Bathwick Tyres Challow Hurdle at Newbury saw Fingal Bay add a Grade 1 to his name, but despite being sent off as the odds-on favourite, regular pilot Richard Johnson had to roust him up to beat 25/1 shot Ballyrock.
In a way, that was a good thing, as it means connections will take nothing for granted when he lines up against a wealth of staying talent at Cheltenham races, including Boston Bob and Monksland, but if the ratings are anything to go by, Hobbs should have every confidence in the horse he himself described as potentially the best he’s ever had.
To put his chance into context, the Minehead stable sent out Massini’s Maguire to land the 2007 running off a mark of 138, and Fingal Bay’s official rating now stands at 149-that is well good enough for him to have landed any of the past 10 runnings.