Tuesday 16 January 2018

Boston Bob can deliver after Sprinter cakewalk

Wayne Bailey

WHEN you see a horse at a very skinny price, it's your job as a punter to look for chinks in its armour and try to find a reason to take it on. So-called good things get beaten all the time, and already this year we've seen plenty of shocks in the markets, including Good Evans, Spirit Of Shankly and Cockney Sparrow, which were beaten at 2/13, 1/6 and 1/6 respectively.

While I do accept that the market is more efficient at the shorter end, plenty of hype horses get beaten at the Festival, and for the past few weeks I've been trying to come up with a list of reasons to oppose Sprinter Sacre in the Queen Mother Champion Chase (3.20).

But I've been left holding my pen, staring at a blank piece of paper – I have to concede that the seven-year-old looks bomb-proof. It all invokes memories of the great Moscow Flyer, and Barry Geraghty is a very lucky man to get the chance to ride both.

Some believe Sprinter Sacre is much better than Moscow Flyer, although with superlatives being dished out like there's no tomorrow, it's worth reminding ourselves that Sprinter Sacre hasn't yet taken part in a Champion Chase, so let's give him a chance to prove himself at the top.

Still, it's what Cheltenham is all about and it will be good for the sport to have another chasing superstar, with so many of the old guard winding down in recent years. If we are to find a negative, it's that Sprinter Sacre hasn't really met a serious rival that was up to his level, but that's hardly his fault, and he comes to Prestbury Park with an unblemished chasing record.

Last year, I foolishly took him on in the Arkle, but I certainly won't be clicking the pink button on the machine today. To drum up a few quid, bookmakers have specials in the 'betting without Sprinter Sacre' markets, and I wouldn't put anybody off Sizing Europe or Wishfull Thinking if you are thinking of having a play but, for me, it's one of those races to savour and enjoy without a penny leaving the wallet.

In the RSA Chase (2.40), Ruby Walsh has picked Paul Nicholls' Unioniste over Willie Mullins' Boston Bob, but I hope the Kill native lives to regret that decision – the latter looks a decent bet around 11/4. Both trainers have good records in the race and while it's far from a simple match race, I'm expecting both horses to be battling it out in the final stages.

A very smart hurdler, Boston Bob has plenty of stamina to see out the trip and I suspect he'll make a very good chaser in the seasons to come. At times, he appears workmanlike but he gets the job done and it's hard to pick holes in his chase form.

Unioniste is not dismissed easily, although I can't say I'm entirely convinced by his latest win in a Novice Chase at Newbury at the expense of Hadrian's Approach. It was a messy affair where he needed to go all out for the win, having been less than fluent over the seventh fence. There's not much separating the pair and I think this could turn out to be the best race of the day.

Irish Independent

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