Boston Bob back in business
Boston Bob made a most impressive seasonal reappearance in the Follow Punchestown On Facebook Hurdle.
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A Grade One winner as a novice over hurdles a couple of seasons ago, Willie Mullins' charge also struck at the highest level over fences last term.
However, he fell at the final fence when holding a narrow lead in the RSA Chase at the Cheltenham Festival and having come to grief again at Punchestown in April, he reverted back to the smaller obstacles for his comeback.
Sent off the 8/11 favourite in the hands of Ruby Walsh, Boston Bob hurdled fluently in the main and covered the move of Un Beau Matin when he kicked rounding the home turn.
It was soon evident Boston Bob had far more to give in the straight and he pulled clear with the minimum of fuss to score by 10 lengths.
The disappointment of the race was Boston Bob's high-class stable companion Mourad.
Even allowing for the fact it was his first competitive appearance in 569 days, he could have been expected to have finished better than sixth of the seven runners.
Walsh said of the winner: "He was a bit high at the first and a bit slow at the second, but after that he was nimble enough.
"He was quite slick in the last part of the race and travelled well.
"He's a very good horse and it's good to see him back on the track and going the right way."
However, Walsh admitted that Boston Bob, cut from 16/1 to 10/1 by Sky Bet for the Ladbrokes World Hurdle on the back of this victory, would have plenty to find with ante-post favourite Big Buck's if that rival was back to his best in March.
"I'm under no illusions, I've ridden Big Buck's and there is not a staying hurdler running that doesn't have to improve a good bit to get to his level," he said.
Mullins was pleased enough with "a nice performance" from the winner.
"He hasn't been doing that at home on the gallops and I didn't expect anything like that," he said.
"Mourad ran poor and coming here I wouldn't have been surprised if this lad had done the same. The owner (Graham Wylie) is keen to go for the World Hurdle.
"Whether that's a World Hurdle performance or not I don't know, but we may go along that route.
"If we're thinking of going that way then the Cleeve Hurdle (next month) could be a possibility at Cheltenham."