Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Fingal impresses with gutsy Sandown success

Philip Hobbs looks to have a very serious Cheltenham Festival contender on his hands in the shape of the progressive Fingal Bay who put up a fine performance to defeat Simonsig at Sandown on Friday and in the process enhanced his claims for the Neptune Investment Novices Hurdle at the showcase fixture in mid-March, writes Elliot Slater.

Given a fine ride by Richard Johnson, the five-year-old retained his unbeaten record in proving nearly three-lengths too good for the very promising Simonsig, who in turn finished well clear of the remainder in the Grade 2 two-and-a-half-mile contest that appeared to most observers to be the best race of its kind run so far in Britain this term. Although Nicky Henderson's charge appeared to be going that little bit better turning for home, it was Fingal Bay who showed the better stamina up the Sandown hill and his relentless manner and willing attitude eventually saw him prevail with a little bit up his sleeve, giving the impression that a further half-mile would also be well within his compass should connections look to tackle the longer race option of the Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. Even those looking for Aintree tips should remember this.

Hobbs expressed his delight at the performance of his winner and immediately nominated the Grade 1 Challow Hurdle at Newbury on New Year's Eve as the next likely target for his rising star who might then be given a break before returning for the festival meeting 10 weeks later. Henderson was also very pleased with the run of Simonsig who could prove to be a regular rival for his Sandown conqueror in the months ahead. People looking for a Grand National winner should bear this in mind.

Fingal Bay is now a best priced 5/1 ante-post favourite (from 8/1) for both the 'Neptune' and the 'Albert Bartlett', whilst Simonsig is generally a 14/1 shot for both races.

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