Phillip Hobbs is no stranger to Grade 1 glory at the Punchestown Festival and the Sandhill handler looks ready to strike again in the Ladbrokes.com World Series Hurdle.
Coming in the wake of the Cheltenham Festival and Aintree’s Grand National meeting, backing a Punchestown protagonist to run up to their best form of the campaign requires a sizeable leap of faith.
Hobbs however is clearly a handler who has the knack, having saddled Planet Of Sound and Captain Chris to win the Punchestown Gold Cup and the Ryanair Novice Chase in 2010 and 2011 respectively.
Both of them came across the Irish Sea having competed at Cheltenham, with the latter completing a festival double following his victory in the 2011 Arkle.
Fingal Bay will be aiming to follow in his footsteps this year following a victory in the Pertemps Final at Prestbury Park.
That Hobbs’ stayer has the class to land Grade 1 honours isn’t in doubt since he is the only horse ever to have lowered the colours of Simonsig, who was rated 160 over hurdles before switching to the larger obstacles.
Indeed David Pipe’s equally top-notch silver gelding Dynaste is the only horse ever to beat him past the finishing post in seven runs over hurdles.
His aforementioned Cheltenham victory added demonstrable guts and staying power to his burgeoning list of qualities, coming as it did off top weight in fiendishly competitive handicap action.
The form of the contest is working out very nicely indeed with a certain Pineau De Re, winner of a little race called the Grand National on his next run, beaten a quarter length into third in receipt of 8lbs.
A neck behind Aintree’s victor ludorum at Cheltenham was Tim Easterby’s Trustan Times, who went on to finish a highly creditable one and three quarter length fourth in the Scottish Grand National on his next start.
Whichever of Willie Mullins’ star mares Annie Power and Quevega turns up will take some beating but having raced just 11 times under rules Fingal Bay boasts the class, staying power and progressive profile to down their colours.