Cheltenham Festival: Fingal Bay comes out on top in Pertemps thriller

Fingal Bay, regarded by many as one of the handicap bankers of this year’s Cheltenham Festival, rewarded his supporters with a thrilling victory in the Pertemps Final on Thursday.

Sent off the 9-2 favourite, Fingal Bay travelled like the well-handicapped horse many thought he was, but jockey Richard Johnson needed to be at his strongest to get the topweight up as Southfield Theatre flashed home.

Johnson looked confident he had landed his second winner of the week as he crossed the winning line, but a photo-finish was called.

It went the way of Fingal Bay, who finished just a nose in front og Southfield Theatre. Pineau De Re, who ran a fine trial for the Crabbie’s Grand National, stormed home to claim third, while Trustan Times was fourth.

A promising novice a couple of seasons ago, Fingal Bay was described by Philip Hobbs as potentially the best horse he has ever trained.

Hobbs may have regretted that statement after the son of King’s Theatre ran out in a novice chase at Exeter in December 2012, jumping violently left.

He had more than a year off, but returned in good style to win at Exeter last month and Hobbs, who saddled five runners in the Pertemps, managed to work his magic once more.

“That was even closer than yesterday!,” Hobbs said in reference to Wednesday’s win with the Johnson-ridden Balthazar King in the cross-country race.

“Ideally he wouldn’t have been in front so long and if he jumped the last better it might have been a little easier.

“He was very good right from the word go and he didn’t surprise me how he’s come back from injury as he’s looked as good as ever at home.”

Johnson, quick to console Southfield Theatre’s rider Daryl Jacob after the photo-finish was announced, added: “He’s an amazing horse. He was injured last year but the owner [Roger Skan] and Philip Hobbs gave him every chance to come back and he’s rewarded them today.

“I’ve certainly got luck on my side at the moment. It’s a very fine line between winning and losing. I didn’t want to be in front too soon but he’s battled so bravely.”

Source: Racing Post, 13 March 2014


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