Trainer Willie Mullins agonised long and hard over which race to send Boston Bob this week and came down on the side of today’s Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle.
Given the way Simonsig destroyed his rivals in the Neptune on Wednesday, some might say that looks a sensible choice, but the County Carlow maestro has never made any secret of the regard in which he holds the Graham Wylie-owned novice.
In giving 10lb to his rivals when dishing out a beating on heavy ground at Leopardstown, Boston Bob emerged as the brightest young prospect in Ireland.
The seven-year-old completed his festival prep with a gallop alongside Hurricane Fly and Quevega.
“He’s one of the best novices we’ve ever sent over and the three miles will be no problem for him,” said Mullins. “With his pedigree, he should love the drier ground as well.
“When you pull him out among other horses you immediately say he’s a chaser, so what he’s doing over hurdles is fantastic.
“I’m really looking forward to him going over fences.”
Sea Of Thunder, also trained here in Ireland by Charles Byrnes, was in the process of running away with a Grade Two at Cheltenham in December but fell at the final flight.
He then finished fifth behind Boston Bob on unsuitably heavy ground in January.
His trainer is expecting a more prominent showing back on a sounder surface.
Byrnes said: “He would have been a good winner in December when he fell, so we know he handles the track.
“The ground didn’t suit him in Leopardstown the last day, so I was happy enough with him.
“I don’t think anything will beat Boston Bob, but hopefully we’ll be there or thereabouts.”
Alan King quietly fancies the chances of Lovcen.
Wins at Towcester and Wincanton have sandwiched a fall in a Grade Two at Doncaster.
“This looks very competitive, but Lovcen is improving and if he can maintain his upward curve then he, too, could be interesting,” said King. He has only raced four times under Rules and has won two of his last three, and his last victory at Wincanton was his most impressive performance yet.
“I think stepping up to three miles will suit him, and, while there might be one or two classier ones in there, our fellow deserves to take his chance.”
Gordon Elliott has aimed Mount Benbulben at this race all season.
He suffered a back injury after chasing home Boston Bob at Navan, where he compromised his chance by jumping continually to his right, but Elliott is pleased again with him now.
“He’s in good nick and in very good form. We’re looking forward it,” said the County Meath handler.
“He’s a nice horse but obviously Boston Bob is the one to beat.”
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