The Big Question: Can Fingal Bay defy top weight in the Pertemps?
Philip Hobbs has a number of likely candidates for the Pertemps Hurdle Final but Fingal Bay looks as if he could go off favourite despite top weight. He is just 1lb worse off with stable companion If In Doubt for the half-length that he beat him at Exeter last time out.
The eight-year-old by King’s Theatre was a leading contender for the Neptune Hurdle in 2012 but missed the race through injury. He returned to action at Aintree and was beaten into second place by Lovcen.
Hobbs switched him to fences the following season but everything went wrong on his third start, eventually running out three from home after some terrible jumping. He did not reappear until last month when putting up a courageous display to win off a rating of 142.
The handicapper has raised him 6lbs for that victory with runner-up If In Doubt up 5lbs. They pulled ten lengths clear of the third and it should again be close between the pair.
Only Sky’s the Limit has carried 11st 12lb to victory in this race in the last twenty years, although Medinas carried only 2lbs less last season. Alan King’s horse ran of an identical rating of 148 to that given to Fingal Bay.
Time For A Run (11st 8lb) in 1994 is the only other winner in recent times to carry more than 11st 3lb. Hobbs has won the race with What’s Up Boys (2000) and Monkerhostin (2004).
Monkerhostin was rated 147 when he won off 10st 8lb when over half of the field ran from out of the handicap. Fingal Bay is unlikely to have to concede much more than a stone to any of his rivals with 16 entries rated 140 and upwards.
Richard Johnson has ridden Fingal Bay in all ten career starts and has sent him to the front before two out for each of his seven wins. The one thing we do know about the horse is that he responds to pressure and he could prove very difficult to pass.