Horses To Follow » Rare Bob

Rare Bob

Rare Bob put up an exhibition of jumping in his first-time blinkers under Paddy Flood to land the Leopardstown Handicap Chase on Sunday. At the head of affairs throughout, Dessie Hughes’s horse hardly missed a beat. He seemed to enjoy being able to dictate, he seemed to be able to measure up his fences from a long way out, and he was pretty much flawless at all 14, fast and fluent at almost every single one and stretching his field out down the back straight. The field did close up to him a little over the second last, and Got Attitude got to within about a length on the run to the last, but Flood had kept plenty in reserve, and he jumped the last fence well and ran on strongly up the run-in to post an impressive victory. He only got home by two lengths in the end, and the second, third and fourth finished with a length of each other, but they were not closing on the winner inside the final 50 yards, and you got the impression that he won with a fair bit more in hand than the winning margin.

Rare Bob was posting his first victory in almost two years, but he was a good staying novice chaser, his previous victory was in a Grade 1 contest at Punchestown when he had Joncol and Cooldine behind him, and he had shaped with a degree of promise on his previous run, travelling well for a long way in a good handicap chase at Cheltenham (won by Gold Cup contender Midnight Chase) before weakening. It may be that he will not have it all to himself up front again in the near future, but he did seem to appreciate the blinkers, and it could be that he is just coming right after being out of sorts last season. The handicapper has raised him 6lb to a mark of 151, and that is not harsh. It is still 4lb lower than the mark he was awarded at the end of his novice chasing season.

He could be a Ryanair Chase contender, he is not wholly dissimilar to another Dessie Hughes-trained horse, Schindlers Hunt, a top novice who took a while to find his range in his sophomore year, who finished a close-up third to Imperial Commander in the 2009 Ryanair Chase. He would be of even greater interest for the Grand National however. He has two-and-a-half-mile pace but we know that he stays three miles well, and he finished fourth in the Irish Grand National as a novice in 2009. It is easy to see him getting into a rhythm at Aintree, racing handily and jumping from fence to fence, and Dessie Hughes knows how to train a horse for the National, as evidenced by Black Apalachi’s outstanding performance last season and unlucky run the season before. Comply Or Die laid the blinkers Grand National hoodoo in 2008, and a mark of 151 is not insurmountable at Aintree any more – the first two home last year were rated 153 and 154, while three of the first four home in 2009 were rated 150 or higher.

9th January 2011

© The Irish Field, 15th January 2011