Back In Focus to prove right choice for Ruby Walsh at Punchestown
Willie Mullins is double-handed as he bids for a third Growise Champion Novice Chase in the last four years, saddling Boston Bob and Cheltenham Festival winner Back In Focus. Although the latter was sent to contest the less prestigious National Hunt Novices Chase over 4m at the festival, he’s the choice of Ruby Walsh – stable jockey to Mullins – to carry the spoils in this year’s renewal at 6:40.
The joy of the top level Irish chasing scene is that the highest echelon of horses will often do battle on multiple occasions during the season, even mixing up the distances at which they meet. As a result there is plenty of form to go on and in this respect the case for Back In Focus is compelling in the extreme – the eight-year-old has yet to lose to any of his rivals here with Tofino Bay, Dedigout, Mount Benbulben and Lyreen Legend vanquished in races this season.
Of those rivals it was Tofino Bay who ran the unbeaten chaser closest, going down by just half a length at Cheltenham, but whilst it was a noble effort from Dessie Hughes’ Gigginstown-owed 10-year-old it was Back In Focus’ ambivalence to ground approaching anywhere near good that was likely responsible for narrowing the gap between the pair. Tofino Bay had previously finished 26 lengths behind him on soft ground at Leopardstown earlier in the campaign.
Unshakeable resolve has characterised Back In Focus’ chasing career to-date with both of the aforementioned races won by his indefatigable staying power inside the final furlong. With the victory in that Leopardstown Grade 1 affair scored over 3m, there is little doubt that he’ll not be inconvenienced by a step back in trip after his Cheltenham success at 4m.
News that Ruby Walsh shuns Boston Bob in favour of his stable mate is nectar to Back in Focus backers as Walsh has a 38 per cent win rate from 16 chase rides here this season. A renowned judge of pace, Walsh will be able to ratchet up the fractions aboard his mount to the detriment of his less sure-staying rivals – Back in Focus is the only runner in the field for this 3m1f test to previously score beyond 3m.