Hobbs opts for lateral Thinking to get Wishfull back to best
National Hunt trainers generally have more time to mull over the possibilities with a promising horse than their colleagues on the Flat.
However, Philip Hobbs is taking an alternative view with his eight-year-old chaser Wishfull Thinking.
After watching the gelding disappoint when strongly fancied in last month's Paddy Power Gold Cup, Hobbs has decided to bring him back in trip to two miles for Saturday's Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown.
Unusually, Wishfull Thinking will now be running over his shortest ever trip on his 15th start under Rules. Only an outing in a Hereford bumper over two miles one furlong in February 2009 comes close.
"It's quite an experiment," admitted Hobbs, who has always held the gelding in high regard. "Things have changed quite a bit since last season, when we were trying to decide if we should go two and a half miles or take the three-mile route with him.
"At Aintree, he was very keen, and at Punchestown (in a novice handicap chase), he was keen and buzzy, and went off quick in front. Having said that, he won both those races, which says a lot for his ability."
But the re-appraisal on the direction Hobbs was taking with Wishfull Thinking came after the front-running chaser weakened badly in the closing stages, under Richard Johnson, to finish sixth, 32 lengths behind Great Endeavour, at Cheltenham over two miles five furlongs. It was a run the trainer believes should be best forgotten.
"After the race, he had his head down and was choking away. He couldn't get any air. He had issues with his breathing in the past, but he had been showing no signs of any problem at home," said Hobbs.
"So, what happened in the Paddy Power is a puzzle and with this experiment, we're hoping to solve it."
The doubts surrounding the participation of Henry de Bromhead's Sizing Europe in Saturday's race have abated as the 6/4 favourite has managed to get across the Irish Sea and arrived at the racecourse stables. (© Daily Telegraph, London)