Past Winners » Back In Focus


There is a still a doubt about Back In Focus’ participation (in the National Hunt Chase) – hence the importance of backing him with one of the firms who are going non-runner-no-bet – but the National Hunt Chase for Back In Focus and the RSA Chase for Boston Bob look eminently more sensible targets than dropping them both down in trip and running Back In Focus in the RSA and Boston Bob in the Jewson. They are both more likely to win the longer races.

There is a huge amount to like about Back In Focus as a National Hunt Chase horse. He has always been really well regarded. He was pitched straight into a Grade 2 novice hurdle at Haydock on his debut under Rules for Howard Johnson, which he duly won, beating the previous Grade 2 winner and Grade 1-placed Court In Motion (who went on to finish third to Bobs Worth in the Albert Bartlett Hurdle on his next run). However, he has looked even better since going over fences for Willie Mullins.

He put in a seriously impressive round of jumping on his chasing debut at Listowel in September, coasting clear to beat the useful White Star Line by a wide margin over an inadequate two-and-three-quarter miles, and he confirmed his class when seeing off Lyreen Legend over that same trip in the Grade 2 Florida Pearl Novice Chase at Punchestwon on his next run. The small field wouldn’t have suited him over that trip, and he looked vulnerable when he made a mistake at the third last fence. Lyreen Legend moved up travelling better on his inside, but he stayed on really strongly from the turn for home to get the better of Dessie Hughes’ horse over the second last.

Even at that trip, he had too much class for good horses – Lyreen Legend is high-class, while the third and fourth, Sweeney Tunes and Farrells Fancy, beaten over 30 lengths, went on to fight out the finish of the Leopardstown Handicap Chase at the end of January. Sweeney Tunes has since gone on again to take advantage of Mikael D’Haguenet’s error to win the Grade 2 Nas Na Riogh Novice Chase at Naas.

Of Course, Back In Focus’ best run came on his most recent run when he got up right on the line to beat Aupcharlie in the Grade 1 Topaz Novice Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas. Aupcharlie probably remains an under-rated horse, he has a leading chance in the Jewson Novices’ Chase, and the way the pair of them drew right away from Texas Jack from the last and, more significantly, even further away from the rest of a well-grouped field over the third last, makes that a really classy performance, and probably one for which Back In Focus has not been given due credit.

It has always been thought that he needs soft ground to be at his best, but it is probably just that soft ground brings his stamina into play over the trips over which he has been running. Like last year’s National Hunt Chase winner Teaforthree, the four miles of this race should provide enough of a test of stamina for the ground not to be an issue. Also, he is by Bob Back, sire of top-class good-ground horses Bobs Worth, Burton Port and Thisthatandtother, while neither Back In Focus’ full-brother or full-sister show or showed a marked preference for soft ground. His sister Back To Belle recorded her only career win in a fast ground Wexford bumper.

There have been a number of changes to the conditions of the National Hunt Chase in recent years, the most recent of which means there are now no longer any penalties to be carried. In two of the three years since that has been made (the last two), the highest rated horse has won. Back In Focus is the highest rated horse in this year’s race, at least 4lb higher than any other likely runner. If he runs then it is likely that Patrick Mullins will ride and, in the context of amateur races at Cheltenham, there are few better than Patrick.

Even allowing for the slight doubt about his participation, I am surprised that Back In Focus is not clear favourite with the non-runner-no-bet firms.