Published 16/01/2010 | 05:00
Is Master Minded the equal of Badsworth Boy? To merit that comparison, he will have to win a third consecutive Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival -- as Badsworth Boy did after a season curtailed by injury in 1985.
Master Minded dominates the Champion Chase market even though he ran with a fractured rib when beaten last time out. Fair enough. Unlike anything involving legs, it's the sort of setback that should heal without repercussion.
Yet Master Minded's agenda continues to stall. Originally due to prep for the Champion Chase at Newbury next month, he now heads straight to Cheltenham. That's not what ante-post punters like to hear.
Given his odds of 7/4, there's value to be had in opposing Paul Nicholls' chaser. And given the frailties evident in Twist Magic and Big Zeb, Petit Robin is overpriced at 12/1 with William Hill.
Nicky Henderson's chaser earned the vote here last year in betting without Master Minded. He might have cashed in had he not clouted the last, yet the abiding memory of that run was the way he took the fight to Master Minded from halfway.
That was only Petit Robin's fourth start over English fences, and he again showed his mettle when downing Well Chief last month.
To date, the two main Irish hopes - Fordpadydeplasterer and Big Zeb - have failed to live up to the expectations of their connections, with the former chasing home Twist Magic in the Tingle Creek at Sandown last time as Big Zeb disappointed well down the field. Which has me believing that Henderson's charge should certainly make the frame, and with Master Minded under a cloud, who knows?