Philip Hobbs talks us through his big Cheltenham Festival hopes
With big race wins including the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup, The Ladbroke Hurdle and the November Novices’ Chase, the 2015-16 campaign has been going pretty well for Philip Hobbs.
The Withycombe-based trainer has accrued more prize money this term than in the 2012-13 season already and with a win or two at the Cheltenham Festival could be on course to beat the last two campaigns as well.
We caught up with him to get the exclusive lowdown on some of his team for next week’s bonanza.
You can read what he had to say on the returning Balthazar King here, but here’s a word on the rest of his charges.
“If all the horses ran that are in the betting at the moment and the ground was good, good-to-soft I suppose we’d go the JLT route.
“But we’d be very much influenced by some of them not running or the ground going very soft and then we’d go back towards the Arkle. He’s won over two-and-a-half miles at Cheltenham already so there’s no worries about the trip.”
Sausalito Sunrise – Ultima Handicap Chase (16/1)
“He won’t go to Uttoxeter [for the Midlands National on March 19] if the ground is very soft there, as it often is so that might push us back towards running him at Cheltenham.
“I don’t see top-weight [in the Ultima] being much of a problem for him. We didn’t enter him [in the Grand National] this year because we didn’t think that he at this stage had enough confidence to do that, but as it turned out of course he’d be running there off 150 rather than 163 so maybe he should be running this year but I don’t think he’s quite ready for it.”
“He’s absolutely fine [after his Kempton fall] and he’s schooled since with confidence.
“I suppose he will probably end up running in the two-and-a-half mile handicap on the Thursday. It would be nice to run him a small runner field somewhere after making mistakes the last twice but there is no race for him so we have no option really.”
Kruzhlinin – Ultima Handicap Chase (10/1)
“He’ll run on the Tuesday and is in good form at home. The handicapper will say that he has improved enough [to better his 10th in the Grand National last year] because he’s now off his highest handicap mark. We’ll just have to wait and see.”
“He hasn’t really been producing his absolute best this season. He’s run well at Cheltenham before so I can’t see it being a disadvantage but I can’t see it being a massive plus either.”
Rock the Kasbah – Coral Cup (14/1)
“It might have been just one run too many when he ran at Ayr last season [when pulled up]. We’ve purposely spaced things out a bit more this season because probably that day he’d had one too many.
“I’m sure he’d be better suited by the longer trip at Cheltenham but ideally he’d probably be better suited by softer ground. The handicapper has put him up a lot so it doesn’t make things any easier.”
If In Doubt – Pertemps Final (12/1)
“He seems in good form and the Pertemps has always been the plan.
“His jumping was appalling [over fences] and he still won the Great Yorkshire Chase. He’s been a backward sort of horse so you’d hope he goes there with a good chance, but being six pounds higher [than when eighth in the race two years ago] wouldn’t fill you with much confidence.”
“Again it depends on both races. He’ll be left in both until the Tuesday morning.
“He’s massively [surprised me] this season, but I think he’s surprised everybody, particularly the handicapper. If he knew what he was going to be now there’s no way he’d be running off 120 or whatever he was in the first place.
“He doesn’t need to make the running in his races but it does suit him if there is nothing else to take him on.”
“He collected some good prize money in finishing third [in the Ascot Chase], but was beaten a long way and probably ran to his handicap mark, so therefore logically is probably better off in a handicap in a conditions race.
“He’s likely to run in the two-and-a-half mile handicap at Cheltenham as well. Like all handicaps, it’s very open and they’ll all be handicapped to have a chance.”
Sternrubin – County Hurdle (16/1)
“Nothing whatsoever [came to light after Betfair Hurdle flop] but the plan is to run in the County Hurdle.
“He’s been working well and he’s fine. I don’t think you can decide [whether to stretch the field early on again] until you are down at the start because there are four or five other horses that might want to do that so we’ll have to wait and see.”
Wait For Me – County Hurdle (16/1)
“His method of racing has been disappointing in that he hasn’t jumped as well as we’d have liked. But I do think that better ground will be key to him and will be a big help.
“[His inexperience] is a concern, particularly with the jumping, but with only three runs over hurdles and the fact that it is often the youngsters who are improving that are the ones with the best chance. Saying that, he is by no means guaranteed to get a run.”
Mendip Express – Foxhunter Chase (8/1)
“I don’t see why he can’t be a major player in the Foxhunters. He’s a very decent horse at his best. His owner David Maxwell schooled him on Tuesday and it all went well so he’s very much on course.”
All odds and markets correct as of the date of publishing.