Bobs Worth stamps his class on Lexus Chase

Gold Cup winner is back on track after a below-par run on his seasonal debut

Barry Geraghty (left) and trainer Nicky Henderson with Bobs Worth after winning the Lexus Steeplechase during day three of the Leopardstown Christmas Festival. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Barry Geraghty (left) and trainer Nicky Henderson with Bobs Worth after winning the Lexus Steeplechase during day three of the Leopardstown Christmas Festival. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Mon, Dec 30, 2013, 10:55

It’s hard to escape the conclusion that if Ireland’s top Cheltenham Gold Cup hopes can’t beat Bobs Worth on their home turf they can hardly be confidently expected to beat him when it really counts come March in the blue-riband.

Bobs Worth is after all the title-holder, a triple-festival winner who’s unbeaten around the turf that matters most. And in winning Saturday’s Lexus Chase at Leopardstown Nicky Henderson’s star proved he is able to translate his class across the Irish Sea, doing so on the back of a lacklustre previous effort that had cast doubts on whether he might still set the standard among staying chasers.

Even allowing for Silviniaco Conti’s King George defeat of Cue Card, there’s little doubt now that the diminutive stayer remains the benchmark figure in terms of the Gold Cup.

That he is apparently destined to remain forever in the shadow of his stablemate Sprinter Sacre in the glamour stakes is hardly going to cause him any sleepless nights. For one thing there isn’t a horse in training that can compete with Sprinter Sacre in profile terms, especially now that his irregular heart problems appears to have righted itself and he is set to go back to work, and another is that grit rather than flamboyance is Bobs Worth’s speciality.

There was plenty of that on show in the way he overcame a mistake at the third last on Saturday, but what gets overlooked is the latent class Bobs Worth possesses too, and that was obvious in how he overhauled First Lieutenant and Rubi Ball in such style to win the €150,000 highlight.

“When they quickened into the straight he showed the pace he has,” Barry Geraghty reported after a Grade One success for him and British champion trainer Nicky Henderson that helped bring both men back from the disappointment of Sprinter Sacre’s dramatic reverse just 24 hours previously. “The ground being on the better side of soft definitely helped him.”

‘Gut instinct’
Henderson said yesterday he isn’t ruling out a pre-Gold Cup run by Bobs Worth in Newbury’s Argento Chase. “I would have thought that (not running again before Cheltenham) would be my gut instinct but we’ll see how he is in 10 days time. It just shows what an up-and-down sport racing is. But he came back,” he reported.

Sir Des Champs chased Bobs Worth home in last season’s Gold Cup but was a lot further behind in fourth at the weekend in what was effectively his first start of the new campaign.

“Considering he fell at the third in the Durkan, and didn’t really have a race, I thought it was quite a good run, one he can improve on,” reported Willie Mullins, whose high-profile French import Rubi Ball stepped up considerably on his Irish debut over hurdles. “It was a very good run but plans for Rubi Ball will depend on the ground – he likes it testing.”

Encouraging return
If the champion trainer missed out on a first ever Lexus success, Saturday was, nevertheless, an encouraging return to form after an opening half to the festival that could be best described as mixed.

However, Solwhit’s defection from the Woodies Christmas Hurdle opened the door to Zaidpour to secure another top-flight triumph, as he went clear of Rule The World and Mala Beach in the closing stages. That proved to be the highlight of a Mullins-Ruby Walsh treble that also contained Sure Reef and the impressive chasing newcomer Djakadam.

Solwhit’s trainer Charles Byrnes faces a race against time to get a warm-up run into his World Hurdle hero ahead of a title-defence in March.

“It looks like a problem with his fetlock, hopefully just a sprain. We’ll have to see how he is next week. If he’s not sound after three or four days, we’ll have to investigate further, but it is nothing to do with his old injury,” Byrnes said.

“It’s going to be tough to get a prep race into him between now and the World Hurdle.”