Tag Archive for: Silver Streak

Heartbreak for Evan Williams as Silver Streak suffers fatal injury

Evan Williams was dealt a blow on Friday with the death of his stable star Silver Streak.

The eight-year-old, who finally enjoyed his crowning glory when winning last year’s Christmas Hurdle at Kempton after a string of good efforts at the highest level, was being prepared to defend his title on Boxing Day.

He finished third in the 2019 Champion Hurdle to Espoir D’Allen and also won the Welsh Champion Hurdle in 2018, as well as finishing placed in numerous other big races.

Williams revealed the news on Twitter where he said: “Sad day Silver Streak suffered a fatal injury today thanks for the memories.”

Silver Streak ran 29 times over hurdles, winning eight and finishing second eight times also, earning almost £500,000 for his owner, Les Fell.

He was ridden in the majority of those by Adam Wedge who tweeted: “Thank you for some fantastic memories that I will never forget! RIP Big man #silverstreak #1inamillion.”

Silver Streak to bypass Ascot with Christmas Hurdle again on cards

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 go to Chepstow without the benefit of a prep run
Secret Reprieve will go to Chepstow without the benefit of a prep run (David Davies/PA)

“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.”

Williams could consider valuable Ascot handicap for Silver Streak

Evan Williams could drop Silver Streak into a handicap after the eight-year-old produced a somewhat disappointing effort when fourth of six in the Betfair Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle on Saturday.

Having chased home Sceau Royal on his seasonal debut at Kempton, hopes were high that last season’s Christmas Hurdle winner would show his best in the competitive Grade One event.

However, Adam Wedge’s mount failed to fire and was beaten eight lengths by Not So Sleepy and Epatante, who dead-heated.

Williams said: “He is grand, but he just didn’t jump and you can’t win those races when you don’t jump.

“I suppose he will be entered in the Christmas Hurdle, but I might enter him in a handicap – the Betfair Exchange Trophy Handicap Hurdle (formerly known as the Ladbrokes Handicap Hurdle) – because they have dropped him 4lb for Saturday’s run.

“I might go to Ascot with him and drop him down. I was just disappointed by the way he jumped.

“We will have a little check to see that we are not missing something, but he is grand in himself and seems absolutely fine.

Silver Streak is a top-class hurdler at his best
Silver Streak is a top-class hurdler at his best (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“He popped over a couple of hurdles on Monday, just because I couldn’t quite work out why he was so poor, but there was nothing obvious.

“We will put him in everything, so he has options. He will have an entry in the Betfair Exchange Trophy – the entries close today (Tuesday) and he will be entered in the Christmas Hurdle, and we will go from there.”

The Llancarfan trainer is keeping a watchful eye on the weather ahead of the weekend, with promising mare Current Mood holding an entry in Sandown’s Grade Two Ballymore Winter Novices’ Hurdle on Friday.

The six-year-old has won two from three over hurdles, but Williams may swerve the race and stay nearer to home for her next run.

He said: “Current Mood is entered at Sandown on Friday, but I would keep an eye on that, as the race I would really like to run her in comes at Haydock in a couple of weeks’ time – a mares’ Listed novice hurdle, which I think I would prefer to go to.

“I wouldn’t want to sniff at any black type with her though, as she is a grand mare and I would like to find a bit of black type with her. She will be entered in all those graded novices’ just to hunt a bit of black type.”

Like many trainers, Williams is desperate for the ground to ease after a thus-far dry winter.

Esprit Du Large has a weekend entry
Esprit Du Large has a weekend entry (Mark Kerton/PA)

He admitted: “I have a couple of nice horses entered at Sandown on Saturday – Mack The Man and Esprit Du Large – in the Listed Betfair Daily Rewards December Handicap Hurdle, but they could do with a drop of rain.

“I have a couple of nice ones in the Betfair Exchange London National Handicap Chase, but they also need a drop of rain.

“No Rematch is a nice horse, but wants proper soft ground, while Fado Des Brosses is another nice staying horse who wants soft ground and I’m desperate to get a start into them, but we have to do what is best for them.

“They have started to back up with me a little bit. I have a lot of soft-ground horses that need proper rain. It is very frustrating for people, but the job will come.”

Ground puts Fighting Fifth off the agenda for Metier

The lack of rain is causing havoc for many trainers and among those is Harry Fry, who will not be declaring exciting prospect Metier for Saturday’s Betfair Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle.

The five-year-old rattled up a hat-trick of victories from four runs last season, which included a 12-length heavy-ground victory in the Grade One Tolworth Novices’ Hurdle at Sandown.

Ranging between 10-1 and 16-1 in the ante-post market for the two-mile feature at the Gosforth Park track, Metier will not be making the journey north.

Fry said: “Metier won’t be going to the Fighting Fifth, because he will not have the ground he prefers.

“There are plenty of good races for him between now and Christmas and we are looking forward to seeing how far he can climb the ladder. He is only five and, of course, we will find out sooner rather than later if he is a handicapper or a graded hurdler.

“He is already a Grade One winner and he will be contesting graded races, but he has to go out and prove it off a mark of 144 and earn the right. We are very much looking forward to seeing if he can, but we are being held up by the ground.”

The same may well apply to the stable’s Boothill, who could have to wait for his chasing debut.

Third in a well-contested Listed handicap hurdle at Ascot last month, Fry is keen to send the six-year-old son of Presenting novice chasing and he holds an entry at Newbury on Friday.

Fry admitted: “We want to start Boothill over fences on Friday at Newbury. We think he is very talented horse, but again we will have to have a watching brief because the ground may come up too quick for him.”

In contrast, Evan Williams, who gained a welcome Grade Three success when Dans Le Vent landed the Betfair Exchange Stayers’ Handicap Hurdle at Haydock on Saturday, is praying the dry spell continues for Silver Streak.

Last season’s Kempton Christmas Hurdle winner was runner-up to Sceau Royal at the same track on his seasonal reappearance and is on course for the Fighting Fifth.

Williams said: “Unlike some, we are hoping the ground stays as dry as it is. The better the ground, the better it will be for him.

“Silver Streak is in good form and has been working well. It will be a tough race, but he will take his chance if the rain stays away.

“It was good to have a nice winner on Saturday and if Dans Le Vent never wins another race, he will still have done his job. He’s come out of that well, but we have no plans for him yet.”

Williams wants rain for Secret Reprieve – but not hopeful for this weekend

Evan Williams is desperate for rain to allow him to run last season’s Coral Welsh National winner Secret Reprieve.

The seven-year-old has not run since taking the rearranged Coral marathon in early January, just missing the cut for the Randox Grand National at Aintree in April.

Williams scratched Secret Reprieve from the early-closing Stayers’ Handicap Hurdle at Haydock on Saturday, but has given him an entry in both Double Daily Rewards With Betfair Graduation Chase and the My Odds Boost On Betfair Handicap Chase on the same card if rain does come.

“I took him out of the hurdle race because it just wouldn’t be right on that ground for him round there over hurdles. If it was very soft, I’d have looked at it,” said the Llancarfan handler.

“I’ve put him in a couple of chases on Saturday, but he is a very unlikely runner. I entered him because I would desperately like to run, but I imagine we won’t be going. He’s entered in case there is a shower up there, then we’re in if we needed to go.

“He’s entered in the graduation chase and the three-mile chase. I’m just needing to get him out somewhere, but I wouldn’t run him unless there was soft in the description.

“I don’t think there’s any rain in the forecast, but I’ve said that before and it’s teemed down. If he’s not in, he can’t run.”

Silver Streak remains on target for the Betfair Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle
Silver Streak remains on target for the Betfair Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Another of Williams’ stable stars, Silver Streak, would prefer the ground to stay as it is ahead of the Betfair Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle on November 27.

“That’s the plan – he’s grand,” Williams added.

“He’d want things to keep dry, but we could do with rain for a few others. That’s how it goes. It suits some and doesn’t suit others.”

The eight-year-old grey will bid to make amends for last year when he was carried out by a loose horse at the second flight. He has already had a run this term, finishing second to Sceau Royal at Kempton last month.

Williams rules out Ladbrokes Trophy tilt for Secret Reprieve

Evan Williams has ruled out a crack at the Ladbrokes Trophy for Secret Reprieve but otherwise, as yet, has made no firm plans for last season’s Welsh Grand National hero.

The Llancarfan trainer reports the seven-year-old to have been back in training for more than two months after summering well.

“He’s grand – he’s big and well. It would have been the end of July, beginning of August time he came into work,” said Williams.

“He’s chipping way there quietly. He won’t go to Newbury for what was the Hennessy. I don’t know where he’ll start – but I guarantee it won’t be there. He won’t even be entered.

“We’ll see how he is and where we are with him in his work and see where we are with the weather and go from from there. I haven’t got a plan.”

Secret Reprieve just missed the cut for the Randox Grand National last season, but Williams has not given the 2022 Aintree spectacular a thought yet.

“The National would be nowhere near the forefront of our minds,” he said.

“The only thing we’ve got in our minds with Secret Reprieve is to see how we get on this autumn and go from there. We haven’t got the Grand National on the radar at the moment. We’re not even thinking of it at the moment.”

Silver Streak is being targeted at the Fighting Fifth Hurdle
Silver Streak is being targeted at the Fighting Fifth Hurdle (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Although Secret Reprieve will not be in action at Newbury on November 27, another of Williams’ stars, Silver Streak, is set to head to Newcastle that day for the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle.

Connections will be hoping for better luck after the grey was carried out by Not So Sleepy at the second flight there last year.

Silver Streak, who went on to win the Grade One Christmas Hurdle at Kempton a month later, was beaten at the Sunbury track by Sceau Royal on his seasonal debut last weekend.

“He didn’t jump with any fluency but has come out of the race in great form,” said Williams.

“It was probably badly needed – he was a bit ring rusty, and the winner is a horse we’ve always admired from afar. We had no worries about being beaten by a horse like that.

“He will go to the Fighting Fifth next time if everything stays as it is today.”

Kempton return in Silver Streak’s diary

Evan Williams’ Grade One-winning hurdler Silver Streak could start his season by attempting to win next month’s Listed Racing TV Hurdle at Kempton for a third year in succession.

The popular grey made a top-flight breakthrough last term – taking the Christmas Hurdle, also held at Kempton, by a convincing six and a half lengths on Boxing Day.

That performance was the highlight of a season in which he contested many of the top races, beginning his campaign with victory at Kempton before meeting with misfortune in Newcastle’s Fighting Fifth when carried out by Not So Sleepy.

A run in the International Hurdle at Cheltenham saw him back in the frame when he was just a nose behind Song For Someone. Then after his Grade One success at Kempton, visits to the two big spring meetings at Cheltenham and Aintree returned sixth-placed finishes in both the Champion Hurdle and the Aintree Hurdle.

Kempton is again the likely starting point for the eight-year-old, who may then chart a familiar course through the fixture list.

“We always try to get to that Kempton race – we’ve started there over the last couple of years, and there’s only so many places he can go,” said Williams.

“If we go there that’d be great. If we didn’t he’d go straight to Newcastle, but I’d say we’ll try to get to Kempton, with all being well and his fitness being OK.

“He’s just cantering away quietly at the minute, and we’ll go from there.”

Although the Fighting Fifth is pencilled into Silver Streak’s calendar, another Cheltenham Festival challenge is not necessarily set in stone yet.

“To some extent, we don’t think as far as Cheltenham,” added Glamorgan trainer Williams.

“It’s never really on our agenda with him – it was always our goal to try to win a Grade One.

“Cheltenham’s full of Irish horses, and it’s hard to beat them. We were just thinking about trying to beat what was running this side of the Irish Sea.

“He won his Grade One last year, and that’s what I really cared about. I thought the horse deserved to win a Grade One.

“He’s such a smashing horse and he runs so many good races. I was very, very delighted that he won his Grade One – and to some extent that’s all that really matters in his career.

“It’s all about enjoying him now, and realising how lucky we are to have him.”

Cheltenham blow for sidelined Adam Wedge

Adam Wedge insists he will be cheering for Silver Streak as loudly as anyone in next week’s Unibet Champion Hurdle after being ruled out of the Cheltenham Festival due to injury.

Wedge steered the Evan Williams-trained grey to Grade One glory in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton on Boxing Day and had been looking forward to renewing the partnership in the feature event at Prestbury Park on Tuesday.

However, the Welshman was unseated at the final flight when riding Hoi Polloi at Newbury on Friday – and while he took up four rides at the Berkshire track the following afternoon, a scan on Monday morning revealed he had sustained a fracture to his T12 vertebra.

Wedge, who won the Stayers’ Hurdle aboard Lisnagar Oscar at last year’s Festival, said: “It’s a hard blow to take, but it’s the way it is.

“I had the fall on Friday and stupidly rode on Saturday, not knowing it was that serious. I went to hospital on Sunday morning and then I went down to London on Monday for an MRI scan, which revealed the injury.

“It’s going to be hard, missing out on riding Silver Streak, but it will still be fantastic to watch him run and see how he goes.

“I’ll most definitely be cheering him on.”

Wedge (left) with Secret Reprieve at Chepstow
Wedge (left) with Secret Reprieve at Chepstow (David Davies/PA)

Wedge now faces a race against time to ride at Aintree next month, where his potential mounts include Randox Grand National contender Secret Reprieve, who could bid to follow up his Welsh Grand National success in the world’s most famous steeplechase.

He added: “The doctors reckon I could be back in around a month.

“I’m looking at being back for Aintree, if it’s possible. That’s the aim.”

Silver primed to bid for Champion Hurdle gold

Silver Streak is primed for the Unibet Champion Hurdle – and will be a “different animal” if granted his favoured good ground on the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival.

Evan Williams has no doubt his admirable grey will do himself proud again, whatever the conditions on Tuesday.

But the Glamorgan trainer knows too that if the rain stays away, Silver Streak’s chances of doubling his Grade One tally – following his victory from title-holder Epatante in Kempton’s Christmas Hurdle – will be vastly increased.

Williams intended throughout to keep the hugely consistent eight-year-old fresh through the mid-winter months, and reports him in fine shape for the challenge ahead.

He said: “He’s grand – we were always going to go straight to the Champion after the Christmas Hurdle, so everything is good.

“He just had a bit of a freshen-up, tipped away quietly, and we just built him up then for a crack at the Champion.”

A very wet January and early February would hardly have played to Silver Streak’s strengths in any prep races and although some more rain is forecast this week, the recent dry spell has left the Cheltenham ground bordering on good in places.

Williams added: “The thing with Silver Streak, if you run him on heavy ground he’ll try hard for you, if you run him on soft ground he’ll try hard for you – but if you run him on good to soft ground, or faster, he becomes a different animal.

“I can’t overemphasise that to people – on good to soft ground, the horse gets a lot of help off the going. On heavy ground, he just runs his heart out for you.

“But the ground is the difference between winning a Grade One and not winning for Silver Streak.”

Williams has already seen proof of that, after a change to front-running tactics also paid off with his near seven-length superiority over a below-par Epatante at Christmas.

“At Kempton, it was our ground and we got lucky with the opposition, and we won a Grade One,” he said.

“He will only reach those heights when the conditions underfoot are to that specification.”

Williams is less concerned how the Champion Hurdle is run because he is confident Silver Streak can adapt to whatever his rivals choose to do.

Honeysuckle will be one of Silver Streak's most formidable opponents next week
Honeysuckle will be one of Silver Streak’s most formidable opponents next week (Niall Carson/PA)

“You ride the race according to what’s in front of you at the time,” he added.

“Kempton was Kempton, and Cheltenham will be Cheltenham.

“I’m not in any way, shape or form worried about having to make the running or having to not make the running.

“All I’m worried about is the other runners against us in a Champion Hurdle.”

While Silver Streak took his two-month break, the prolific Honeysuckle and a back-to-form Goshen were prominent among those who have enhanced their credentials and Williams was impressed.

“I’m a horse racing fan, and I enjoy watching any quality horse,” he said.

“To see Honeysuckle win was brilliant, and I was particularly pleased with Goshen.

“I’m a fan of the horse, but I’m an even bigger fan of the connections.

“It was a joy (in Wincanton’s Kingwell Hurdle). We had a runner in the race (Esprit Du Large) and I’ve never been so happy to be blown off the park!”

He can be confident that will not happen with Silver Streak – third and sixth in the last two Champion Hurdles – but is reassured too that the pressure is off in any case after his Kempton win.

“I like to see good horses, and it’s a joy to be even talking about our horse in the same breath as those ones,” added Williams.

“I’m in a very lucky position – our Grade One is in the bag. All I want to do is go to Cheltenham, have a bit of luck in running and win, lose or draw, as long as that horse comes back in one piece and it’s a good race, I’m just delighted to take part.”

Silver Streak will take direct route to Champion Hurdle

Evan Williams will keep Silver Streak fresh and direct the Grade One-winning grey straight to the Unibet Champion Hurdle next.

Having landed his first top-level victory on Boxing Day with the surprise scalp of the reigning champion Epatante in the Christmas Hurdle – adopting front-running tactics for the first time – Silver Streak has become a genuine Cheltenham contender.

However, Williams acknowledges his chance depends almost entirely on the ground – with none of his eight career wins achieved on anything worse than good to soft.

“He deserved it, he tries every time and is very hard on himself,” said Williams, who explained he and jockey Adam Wedge decided on their change of tactics at Kempton after a long discussion.

“We talked and talked, and kept going through the race,” he said.

“The epitome of a fool is someone who keeps doing the same thing and expects a different result.

“We just thought we had to try something different – and thankfully it all worked out.

“It will be straight to the Champion Hurdle now, and we’ll hope for a dry spring – because he is a different horse on that ground.”

Silver Streak shocks Epatante in Christmas Hurdle

Silver Streak upset odds-on favourite Epatante to spring a shock with an all-the-way win in the Ladbrokes Christmas Hurdle at Kempton.

Jockey Adam Wedge employed a significant change of tactics on Evan Williams’ grey, and Silver Streak rose to the challenge – jumping accurately and running the finish out of this year’s Champion Hurdle heroine, who was sent off the 1-5 favourite but had to settle for second.

Epatante made one untimely error, at the third-last, as Aidan Coleman asked her to close down the winner – and although she managed to move within striking distance early in the straight, Silver Streak had plenty in reserve and surged clear again after the last to win by six and a half lengths.

The 13-2 victory was his first at Grade One level and recompense for misfortune at Newcastle in last month’s Fighting Fifth Hurdle, when he was carried out at the second flight by a loose Not So Sleepy, before Epatante won with ease there.

Williams, who was not at the Sunbury track, said: “There are lots of horses that people say deserve this and deserve that, but the reality is it is a tough old game and nobody deserves anything really – but that lad today, he is so genuine and because he is so genuine and tough he did deserve it.

“I was hoping he would be good enough one day, as I kept telling everybody, but to land it like he did does mean an awful lot to us really.

“The ground is a huge thing and I can’t overemphasise that. He has been running some very good races in defeat on ground which isn’t what he wants, but he goes out there and does his best on it, even though he is not getting the purchase he needs.

Adam Wdge powers to victory aboard Silver Streak
Adam Wedge powers to victory aboard Silver Streak (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“I said to Adam, who was riding here after schooling on Christmas Eve, that I want to make the running in the Christmas Hurdle. I said I don’t want to be second or third in a Christmas Hurdle, that means nothing to me. We either go a good gallop and finish last or we roll the dice and get something out of it.

“I had no ambition to be second or third in a Christmas Hurdle, I wanted to win one – and the only way I could see that was to ride him and go a very good gallop. I would say the jockey has played a blinder. I do think he is a Kempton horse, and if you look at his form around Kempton it is outstanding.

“Let’s not worry about the Cheltenham Festival or let’s not worry about anything else. He has won a Christmas Hurdle, and if that is all we ever do and win a Grade One Christmas Hurdle with him then I’m a very proud man.”

Nicky Henderson, meanwhile, will regroup with Epatante.

The Seven Barrows trainer said after saddling the winner of the closing race on the card: “I’ve had a chat with Aidan. She scoped clean, her heart is clean and she blew for 20 minutes which is spot-on normal. Twenty minutes is right, 15 minutes you’ve done nothing and 25 minutes you are not fit.

“Aidan said he wasn’t getting the same feel he did off her at Newcastle. I don’t think that was the ground – it was just one of those things that happened. There doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with her.

“She has been really well in herself, and her preparation has been completely perfect – for me anyway. We all thought everything was 100 per cent. Aidan just felt he wasn’t going well enough, because she is the sort of horse you can just ride along on the bridle and press the button and she goes.

“It just didn’t happen, and Aidan said it didn’t feel likely to happen. I’d say we will leave her until Cheltenham. There is something lurking there, but at the moment we only have a limited amount of tests. That wasn’t the Epatante we love on the day, but they are not machines.

“Whatever you do, you sometimes can’t explain these things. Aidan knows her well and he said he wasn’t getting the vibes.”

Coleman said: “The winner deserved to win. The race went to plan, but just from turning in that burst of speed she has wasn’t there for some reason. She will be back. That made no difference (the mistake down the back).”

Silver Streak set for Christmas Hurdle again

A second tilt at the Ladbrokes Christmas Hurdle at Kempton is next on the agenda for Silver Streak following his narrow defeat at Cheltenham last weekend.

The Evan Williams-trained grey was runner-up to subsequent Champion Hurdle heroine Epatante in last year’s Christmas Hurdle – and has been successful on each of his two other visits to the Sunbury venue.

After being carried out in the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle on his penultimate start, Silver Streak aimed to get back on the winning trail in last Saturday’s International Hurdle.

After being caught in an unpromising position as the field rounded the dolled-off final hurdle, the seven-year-old stormed up the hill to be beaten just a nose by Song For Someone.

Williams said: “He seems grand and well since the weekend and he will go to the Christmas Hurdle.

“You could say he was a little bit unlucky, but the best horse won. The winner was giving us weight, and we were second best on the day – we have no complaints.

“We’ll go to Kempton and try and get some place money again.”

Silver seeking Fighting Fifth gold

Evan Williams hopes Silver Streak can secure a first Grade One victory in the Betfair Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle on Saturday week.

The Llancarfan handler believes the seven-year-old deserves a win at the highest level – having been placed three times in five starts at the top table, including when finishing third in last year’s renewal of this two-mile prize.

Silver Streak made a triumphant return to action for the second season running last month, in the same Listed contest he had won at Kempton a year earlier.

Williams said: “Silver Streak will go to Newcastle for the Fighting Fifth – then we will try to go for the Christmas Hurdle, which he was second in last year.

“He has been second and third in Grade Ones and you just hope he can win a Grade One.

“I might be silly and I might be trying too hard to make him do something that is difficult to achieve.

“I just think he deserves it because he has run so many nice races – it would be nice to have it on his CV.”

Williams expects Silver Streak’s Kempton prep run will help increase his chances of gaining an elusive Grade One success.

He added: “It was a performance at Kempton that you could only be happy with. He didn’t have a hard race, and it was good to blow the old cobwebs away.

“To get a run under your belt and win as you like helps a lot mentally, as well as physically.

“Wherever he goes next, it’s going to very difficult to win, but at least he is going there with a little bit of spice in him.”

Esprit Du Large finished a race for the first time since his Grade One victory at Sandown when finishing third last time out at Carlisle (Mark Kerton/PA Images)
Esprit Du Large finished a race for the first time since his Grade One victory at Sandown when third last time out at Carlisle (Mark Kerton/PA Images)

Williams was pleased to see Esprit Du Large put in a clear round of jumping in a graduation chase at Carlisle, following back-to-back falls in the Arkle at the Cheltenham Festival in March and the Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter.

He added: “I don’t know how he fell at Exeter, but he fell and that was two on the bounce – which is never a good position to be in, because he had a mother and father of a fall in the Arkle.

“Thankfully I had him entered at Carlisle, and we got a run under our belt. It was not a flashy run because he finished third, but it was a clear round on a racetrack.”

Plans remain fluid for Esprit Du Large, who tasted Grade One glory in last season’s Henry VIII Novices’ Chase at Sandown, with Williams intending to find another confidence booster before aiming at bigger targets.

He added: “It is difficult where we go – we are between a rock and a hard place. He is only a young horse and he hasn’t had a lot of racing. We are in a lot better position, having had a clear round under our belt.

“We will just rebuild him back. We won’t do anything flashy – we just want to let him enjoy himself somewhere.”

Silver Streak kickstarts season with repeat Kempton success

Silver Streak set up a return to Grade One company by securing back-to-back victories in the Racing TV Hurdle at Kempton.

The Evan Williams-trained seven-year-old made his first start since finishing sixth in the Champion Hurdle a triumphant one – with victory in the same two-mile Listed contest he landed on his return to action 12 months ago.

Although one of the first to come under pressure rounding the home turn, the 9-2 shot responded well to move through and pass long-time leader Diego Du Charmil over the second last before establishing a decisive advantage.

Once in command, Sliver Streak maintained his gallop all the way to the line to defeat odds-on favourite, and the 2018 winner of this race, Verdana Blue by six and a half lengths.

Williams said: “Ground is important to him, and he has run good races here in the past.

“Verdana Blue is a smashing mare and she has done nothing wrong – but under his right conditions, our horse is a smart horse. They haven’t gone quick enough really for us.

“They have quickened from the last down the back into the bend – which caused a bit of scrimmaging. If our horse had a hard-run race it would be a different job again.”

Williams had plenty of praise for winning rider Tom O’Brien, who was deputising while the grey’s regular partner Adam Wedge serves a suspension.

He said: “Adam Wedge is banned, and he would have ridden him. Horse racing is a funny old game – and you get good times and bad times.

“A lot of people have short memories – (but) I like to think I’ve a good one. Tom has been good to me in the past … he deserved the ride today, and he has done a fine job.”

All roads for Silver Streak will lead back to a third shot at the Champion Hurdle, for which he was introduced at 33-1 by Paddy Power.

But a return to the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle, in which he finished third last year, could be first.

Williams added: “The Fighting Fifth would have to be on the agenda, because the track would suit as long as it doesn’t get very deep.

“It’s very easy to go for a Grade Two, and that could be the sensible option, but I do think he has a Grade One in him.

“He deserves to win one of the very good races, because I think he has got the talent (to do it).

“He does love fast ground, and I would love to run him in a fast-ground Champion Hurdle.”

A classy race inevitably recorded a quick time on fast ground – but trainer Nicky Henderson felt a stronger gallop would still have suited Verdana Blue much better.

He said: “She does stay very well, as we have seen on the Flat, but it turned into a bit of a sprint.

“She had everything in her favour, but they went no pace at all. She has got a turn of foot – but it is hard to use it, coming off that pace.”

Silver Streak set for seasonal bow at Kempton on Sunday

Evan Williams has no plans to embark on a chasing career with his high-quality hurdler Silver Streak.

The seven-year-old, who ran on the Flat for Ann Duffield before joining Williams’ Glamorgan stable, has won six contests over the smaller obstacles since switching codes.

The gelding was schooled over fences at home after a successful 2019-20 season, when he won Kempton’s Listed Matchbook VIP Hurdle and was placed in the Christmas Hurdle and the Fighting Fifth, both Grade One races.

Despite that, Williams will not be campaigning Silver Streak over fences and he will begin his season back in the same Kempton Listed event on Sunday, although the contest is now backed by Racing TV.

“It’s never been our plan to go chasing, we said we’d school him to see, but he’ll never go jumping a fence,” he said of his 2019 Champion Hurdle third.

“That would be a waste of time. He’s not a natural chaser, he’ll stay hurdling.”

Beyond this weekend’s engagement, Williams has no firm plans for the son of Dark Angel, preferring to plot next steps after the race

“I don’t know what we’ll do yet, to be honest,” he said.

“I think we’ll just chip away quietly over hurdles and conditions hurdles and just see where we are from there.

“We won’t make any radical plans. We’re starting off at Kempton, we’ll see how we get on from there and slot into things. We’ll see how it pans out.

“He’s grand and he could do with a start, everything is grand with him. He’s looking really good.”