Silver Streak will be given his chance to defend his Christmas Hurdle crown at Kempton after Evan Williams decided to bypass Saturday’s Betfair Exchange Hurdle at Ascot.
The Llancarfan trainer enjoyed the 2020 festive season more than most, with big-race success in both the Grade One hurdle at Kempton and in the Welsh National at Chepstow with Secret Reprieve.
Williams is hopeful that both his stable stars remain on course to defend their respective titles, but admitted both will take their engagements more in hope than expectation.
Silver Streak has failed to produce the form that saw him land the Christmas Hurdle in four subsequent starts, including when trailing eight lengths behind dead-heaters Not So Sleepy and Epatante in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle last month.
Williams said: “Silver Streak will go to the Christmas Hurdle. I scratched him from Saturday. He will go to Kempton Park on Boxing Day. I haven’t worked him but he will work this week, and the plan is for him to defend his crown.
“He jumped terribly at Newcastle. He jumped like his legs were tied together – his jumping, the last two runs, has been an issue and I can’t say I have found the reason why.
“I just think he is getting older and wiser, and the ground he has been running on, when it is on the soft side, it has become very difficult for him to operate.
“I don’t think that is an excuse for his jumping, he just hasn’t been on his A game this year at all.
“However, we are going back there, just because the track suits him and that is where he has shown his best form.
“It is nice that he can go back and defend his crown. Win, lose or draw, he does deserve that chance as the current holder.”
Secret Reprieve, who justified favouritism to take the extended three-and-three-quarter-mile Coral Welsh National under Adam Wedge last season, is 6-1 second favourite with the sponsors to follow up on December 27th – despite not having a run since.
“Secret Reprieve will hopefully go straight to Chepstow,” Williams said.
“I wouldn’t say we are on course, because we haven’t had a prep run.
“I would dearly have loved to have got a prep run under his belt and I presume we will just use it as a stepping stone to dates we know after Christmas.
“It has been very tricky. We have not been able to get a run into him. The lack of rain has definitely had implications not just for him, but for many trainers and horses.”
On Monday, the Vale of Glamorgan handler was still basking in the afterglow of success with Coole Cody following Saturday’s Racing Post Gold Cup victory at Cheltenham, but Williams reiterated that plans are on hold for the 10-year-old.
“It was a lovely weekend,” said Williams. “There is no plan for him at all. We were just delighted that he has managed to win a major prize again. It is a race with a lot of history, so it was a nice race to win.
“There is nothing on the horizon for him, though. We will just see how the horse comes out of the race and worry about everything else from there. He seems fine and has taken it well.”
Looking ahead to the weekend, Williams is anticipating a dual-pronged attack in the Virgin Bet Tommy Whittle Handicap Chase, one of the feature races on an exciting seven-race Haydock Park card.
Both Fado Des Brosses and No Rematch are expected to make their belated seasonal debuts at the Merseyside track.
Williams said: “Even though he has an entry in the Welsh National, I’d like to go to the Tommy Whittle on Saturday with Fado Des Brosses. I have got two in that with No Rematch.”