Silver Streak bids to put his Fighting Fifth nightmare behind him with victory in the Unibet International Hurdle at Cheltenham.
The Evan Williams-trained grey finally found the opportunity to bid for Grade One glory on his favoured good ground at Newcastle a fortnight ago, but was carried out by the riderless Not So Sleepy after jumping just one obstacle.
Williams is philosophical about how events unfolded at Gosforth Park – and while conditions are unlikely to be as suitable for his stable star this weekend, he is expecting another bold show.
“Silver Streak would love a faster surface, but he’s got form on soft ground against these type of horses and it is what it is at the end of the day,” said the Llancarfan-based trainer.
“A lot of the time in racing you get frustrated because something has gone wrong or there’s been a mistake, but nobody made a mistake in the Fighting Fifth. It was something that happened, it was nobody’s fault and I think in those instances you’ve just got to laugh about it.
“Perhaps Silver Streak will never win a Grade One and that’s the way it is.
“You can worry about this, that and the other, but the reality is he’s a good, tough, genuine horse who is a joy to have anything to do with – and they’re hard to find.”
Silver Streak renews rivalry with the Alan King-trained Sceau Royal, who filled the runner-up spot behind Champion Hurdle heroine Epatante in the Fighting Fifth, following previous wins in the Welsh Champion Hurdle at Ffos Las and the Elite Hurdle at Wincanton.
King said: “He has been in good form this season. I hope it doesn’t rain too much and we will take a view of things on Saturday morning.
“He was just beaten by a champion in what was a very messy race (at Newcastle) – ideally we wouldn’t have liked to be out in front as long as we were.
“We’re maybe rolling the dice a bit quick, but he will have a little holiday after this.”
Heading the market for Saturday’s Grade Two contest is the exciting Goshen, who makes his first appearance over obstacles since his heartbreaking final-flight mishap in the Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March.
He has been beaten at cramped odds in two Flat outings since, but trainer Gary Moore is looking forward to seeing him return to the jumping game, having missed recent engagements in the Elite Hurdle and the Fighting Fifth.
Speaking on a call hosted by Great British Racing, Moore said: “He’s inexperienced over hurdles – he’s only had four runs. When you are running in these top races – I would guess, because I haven’t had a horse good enough to run in them – that you need to know your job.
“I think people were expecting more of him when he ran back on the Flat, but last summer he started life off 63, whereas this time he was running in 0-105s. I was probably minding him too much as he’d been off quite a while since March.
“He seriously blew up at Haydock, then at Goodwood, he was beaten by a horse who went on to be second in a Group Three (Natural History) – it was a big jump up to what he was used to on the Flat. He was coming back at the end, so I was quite positive.
“He’s maturing as a horse. You had to make the running on him before because he was very buzzy, but now he’s maturing, he settles and you can ride a race on him.
“It’s a tough year for horses after their juvenile hurdling season – I always think it’s their hardest.”
Tom Symonds expects to have a clearer idea of Song For Someone’s future ambitions after Saturday’s race.
Having been away from the track since winning the Kingwell Hurdle at Kempton in February, the five-year-old made a successful return to action despite going off the outsider of three in the Grade Two Coral Hurdle at Ascot last month.
Symonds said: “We’ve been very happy with him since Ascot and we’re looking forward to running him.
“It’s a very good race. Aidan (Coleman, jockey) thinks the New Course at Cheltenham will suit him as you need to stay around there, which he clearly does.
“We’re fully aware he could run the race of his life and finish second and it’s essentially a fact-finding mission for us.
“We’ll be guided by what the horse does – he’ll present himself as a Champion Hurdle horse, or an Aintree horse or whatever.”
Nicky Henderson runs Verdana Blue and last year’s winner Call Me Lord in a bid for a fourth successive International success, while Ch’tibello (Dan Skelton), Ballyandy (Nigel Twiston-Davies), Summerville Boy (Tom George) and Stormy Ireland (Paul Nicholls) complete the 10-runner field.
Skelton said of Ch’tibello: “He ran well at Aintree last time. Even over two and a half, he probably just got outstayed by a three-miler in Summerville Boy and there is no disgrace being second to him as he has won Grade Ones in his life.
“The good thing about the International is we go there without a penalty.
“I’m not saying we are going to win, but we go there optimistic of a good show.”