Friday, March 2, 2012

Hobbs confirms Fingal a Cheltenham absentee

The 'will he, won't he' guessing game over the participation of long-time ante-post Neptune Investment Management Hurdle favourite Fingal Bay in the feature staying novice hurdle has been answered in the negative, with the news that Philip Hobbs' unbeaten star will miss the forthcoming Cheltenham Festival as the result of sustaining a muscle injury, writes Elliot Slater.

For some days the decision was hanging in the balance but eventually the Minehead-based handler has admitted defeat in his race against time to have the son of King's Theatre ready and firing on all cylinders to take on smart opposition in the two-mile-five-furlong contest. Anyone who has placed an ante-post Cheltenham bet on him will be disappointed by the news.

The hamstring injury sustained a week ago has failed to recover in time but all concerned with the horse expect it to be a distant memory by the time both the Aintree and Punchestown Festivals come around later in the season. There was however no hiding the bitter disappointment of all the Hobbs team that the horse who has seen off all-comers so far this term will not get the chance to prove himself on the biggest stage of all.

Simonsig and Boston Bob have now been promoted to 7/2 joint-favourites for the Grade 1 contest, the former having had to settle for second place behind Fingal Bay when the pair met at Sandown in early December and Richard Johnson's mount prevailed by two-and-three-quarter-lengths in the Grade 2 Winter Novices Hurdle, sponsored by Neptune Investments. A subsequent length defeat of Ballyrock in the Grade 1 Challow Hurdle at Newbury on New Year's Eve solidified the six-year-old's position at the head of the market for the Cheltenham contest and all had been going exactly to plan until he met with his unfortunate setback just three weeks before the main event.

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