When Simonsig coasted up to challenge Fingal Bay at Sandown yesterday, it seemed clear that a new star was about to announce himself. The twist was that the star was Fingal Bay.
After winning his first three starts, the odds-on favourite for the Neptune Investment Novices' Hurdle was off the bridle and hard at work between the last two flights. Barry Geraghty remained motionless on Simonsig, looking as though he could pick off the leader at his whim. But Fingal Bay flew the last hurdle and suddenly was opening up again on the climb to the line, ultimately seeing off Simonsig by nearly three lengths, the pair clear.
Simonsig could yet confirm himself among the season's top novices with the emphasis back on speed – whether on better ground or over shorter distances. But Fingal Bay is already setting standards at two and a half miles, and will do better still granted a stronger pace or longer trip. Philip Hobbs, his trainer, is now likely to target the Challow Hurdle at Newbury on New Year's Eve.
Hobbs was dismayed, however, to see Quinz run another lifeless race in the Sportingbet Future Stars Chase. Bostons Angel, winner of the RSA Chase last season, was never engaging properly and trailed in last of three finishers, and Jessica Harrington will try blinkers in the Lexus Chase at the Leopardstown Christmas meeting.
Though the race rather fell into the lap of Golan Way, at least his fine attitude has earned him a place in the William Hill King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day.
Down at Exeter, meanwhile, Walkon added his name to what already looks a vintage crop of novice chasers. After such a trying December last year, the sport can bask in its good fortune this time round.