Last place in Cheltenham’s Supreme Novice Hurdle isn’t the usual way to success at Royal Ascot, but it is the route taken by Simenon, who provided Willie Mullins with his first win at the meeting. Simenon was an 8/1 winner of the Ascot Stakes Handicap yesterday.
In truth, it would have been a big surprise if the five year old gelding has done any better at Cheltenham; he was a 50/1 chance for the race in his first season of hurdling, and followed on with third place in the Irish Champion Hurdle and a win at Cork three weeks ago.
Yesterday was his first run on the flat for Mullins, following a move from Andrew Balding’s yard last year, but he had no trouble in shooting six lengths clear of another 8/1 chance, Al Khawaneej, once Ryan Moore let him go at the two furlong pole.
Mullins explained that he felt Simenon had not travelled well when he came over in March. Now he and his team have worked out a more thorough care plan for the horse, with groom Jack Madden playing a leading role. Mullins said, “Jack made sure the horse drank well and settled well, as we were worried after what happened at Cheltenham that it might be the travel.”
Stats followers would have had him on their short list for the race, as it had been taken by a horse from a jumping stable in six of the previous ten years.
Simenon is entered in Saturday’s Queen Alexandra Stakes, and Mullins would be happy for him to turn out again provided he eats and drinks up well in the next couple of days. However, the winning trainer stats don’t point to another win. It’s unusual for a jumping stable to provide the winner of the longest race of the flat season.