Irish trainer Willie Mullins will have been thrilled by the manner of Boston Bob’s easy victory on his return at Punchestown with sponsors Ladbrokes installing the eight-year-old as a lively 10/1 shot to land World Hurdle honours.
The result marked a triumphant comeback for a charge who’d been out of luck in the spring, falling over the fences of Cheltenham in the RSA Chase when leading at the last and then again at the same track of this most recent outing.
The switch back to hurdles seemed to suit Mullins’ dual Grade 1 winner, and while held up by jockey Ruby Walsh until the latter stages of his seasonal reappearance, the Burbage Stud talent was quick to assert himself when it mattered most.
Making a move two obstacles from home, Boston Bob soon cleared leading rival Un Beau Matin and raced ahead for an emphatic 10-length score.
A step-up to take on the 3m trip of the Ladbrokes World Hurdle has already been mooted by Mullins and owner Graham Wylie and this likely target would pose some interesting questions of the other possible participants.
Market leader Big Buck’s, a four-time Ladbrokes World Hurdle winner for Paul Nicholls is the obvious threat. The 11/4 fancy is close to a comeback following a leg injury that’s kept him away from the track since landing the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury in 2012.
An entry in Cheltenham’s Cleeve Hurdle has been earmarked by connections.
If successful, the 10-year-old would become the second-oldest victor following Crimson Embers’ success in 1986.
The Rebecca Curtis-trained At Fishers Cross is available at 12/1 although there are big question marks surrounding the six-year-old’s jumping following some far from fluent performances this season in the Long Distance and Long Walk Hurdles respectively.
Reve De Sivola, now a back-to-back winner of the latter of those races, is a 14/1 shot although he’s struggled to live with Big Buck’s in the past and couldn’t contain last year’s Ladbrokes World Winner, Solwhit.
The Irish-trained nine-year-old is priced at 5/1 to retain his crown and despite missing the recent Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown with injury, trainer Charles Byrnes remains relatively unconcerned.
And perhaps rightly so given the French-bred charge’s phenomenal performances last term following a near two-year absence.
Alongside success at the Cheltenham Festival, Solwhit delivered the Liverpool Hurdle at Aintree and was a game runner-up in the French Champion Hurdle at Auteuil.
For now though, all those concerned with Boston Bob can enjoy the headlines with plenty more Festival clues waiting to be pounced upon between now and the spring.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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