The smart novice chase prospect Fingal Bay blotted his copybook in no uncertain fashion at Exeter on Friday when failing to complete in a three-runner contest for which he was sent off a red-hot 1/12 market leader, writes Elliot Slater.
One of last season’s outstanding novice hurdlers, rattling up a hattrick of Grade 2 victories before triumphing in the Grade 1 Challow Hurdle on New Year’s Eve, the six-year-old was forced to miss the Cheltenham Festival due to a minor setback and then met his first ever defeat when caught close home by the smart Lovcen in the Grade 1 John Smith’s Sefton Hurdle at the Aintree Festival on his final outing of the campaign.
This term started well enough for the gelded son of King’s Theatre who won on his chasing bow at Chepstow in October before being outpointed on the run-in by the exciting novice Dynaste in the prestigious Steel Plate & Sections Novice Chase at Cheltenham the following month.
On the strength of those two fine efforts so far over the larger obstacles Fingal Bay appeared to have a straightforward task in the Harry Dutfield Memorial Novices’ Chase at Exeter on December 7, according to Betfair Horseracing Tips at least.
But after setting out to make all in the three-runner affair he soon started to jump violently to his left and gave experienced top jockey Richard Johnson a hard time. Still in front and seemingly travelling well, Hobbs’ charge suddenly ducked out and crashed through the wing of the third last fence, leaving Tom George’s Chartreux to accept the gifted victory.
His shock defeat was soon reflected in the Latest Horse racing odds for the RSA Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in March with Fingal Bay being immediately pushed out to 16/1 (from 12/1) for the three-mile novice chasing championship.