Tom Symonds is hopeful Song For Someone will put up a staunch defence of his crown in the Unibet International Hurdle at Cheltenham on Saturday.
The six-year-old denied the admirable Silver Streak by a nose in a thrilling renewal of the Grade Two contest 12 months ago, having won the Coral Hurdle at Ascot on his previous start.
Song For Someone had to make do with the runner-up spot behind Nicky Henderson’s Buzz on his Ascot reappearance this season, but is well fancied to get back on the winning trail this weekend.
Symonds said: “It looks a nice sort of race for him. Obviously there are one or two unknown quantities in there and Sceau Royal is the best horse in the race, but Song For Someone seems in good form.
“It’s a shame Adagio didn’t make it as he was the young horse who looked like he might step up.
“We’re going there more in hope than confidence, but we were pleased to see him run so well at Ascot and we’re hoping he can back that up at Cheltenham on Saturday.”
The biggest threat to Song For Someone appears to be the Alan King-trained Sceau Royal.
The Doctor Dino gelding won at Kempton in October and Wincanton in November before finishing third in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle a fortnight ago.
“This was an afterthought,” King admits.
“We were going to go to Kempton for the Christmas Hurdle and then Anthony (Bromley, racing manager to owners Isaac Souede and Simon Munir) rang me at 11.45am on Monday saying can we put Sceau Royal in. I thought ‘Christ we haven’t done anything with him’, but we popped him in.
“He worked very well on Thursday morning and we will roll the dice and he will take his chance.
“His Fighting Fifth run was good, but that last blizzard did it for us as that was the last thing he needed before the race.
“He still ran with great credit and he seems in good order. If it doesn’t come off, it doesn’t come off, but we have to have a crack at a race like that.”
Nigel Twiston-Davies, who saddled The New One to win the International Hurdle on three occasions, is this year represented by Coral Hurdle third Guard Your Dreams.
Henry de Bromhead and Rachael Blackmore team up with last season’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle runner-up Ballyadam, who reverts to the smaller obstacles after two outings over fences this autumn.
Heaven Help Us (Paul Hennessy), Hunters Call (Olly Murphy) and Wilde About Oscar (Dan Skelton) complete the line-up.