Boston Bob could be a fascinating challenger to the mighty Big Buck's in Cheltenham's Cleeve Hurdle after a most impressive comeback victory at Punchestown.
Four-times World Hurdle hero Big Buck's was unable to defend his crown in the staying showpiece last March after missing much of the season through injury, but he is close to a comeback, with the Cleeve his intended starting point on January 25.
Not unlike Paul Nicholls' stable star, the Willie Mullins-trained Boston Bob reverted back to the smaller obstacles after ending last season with falls at the Cheltenham and Punchestown Festivals. Sent off the 8-11 favourite for the Follow Punchestown On Facebook Hurdle in the hands of Ruby Walsh, Boston Bob hurdled fluently in the main and covered the move of Un Beau Matin when he kicked rounding the home turn.
It was soon evident Boston Bob had far more to give in the straight and he pulled clear with the minimum of fuss to score by 10 lengths.
Walsh, who has guided Big Buck's to 16 of his straight 18 wins, acknowledged Boston Bob will need to improve to challenge perhaps the greatest staying hurdler.
"He was a bit high at the first and a bit slow at the second, but after that he was nimble enough," said the jockey afterwards.
"He was quite slick in the last part of the race and travelled well.
"He's a very good horse and it's good to see him back on the track and going the right way.
"I'm under no illusions, I've ridden Big Buck's and there is not a staying hurdler running that doesn't have to improve a good bit to get to his level."
The disappointment of the race was Boston Bob's high-class stable companion Mourad.
Even allowing for the fact it was his first competitive appearance in 569 days, he could have been expected to have finished better than sixth out of seven.
Mullins confirmed Boston Bob would pursue the staying hurdle route in the colours of owner Andrea and Graham Wylie.