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Cheltenham and Kempton on Symonds’ radar for Song For Someone

Song For Someone could bid to retain his Unibet International Hurdle crown at Cheltenham after a valiant run in defeat in the Coral Hurdle on Saturday.

The gelding was a five-length winner of the Ascot race last season, the first leg of a Grade Two double that then included a narrow victory over Silver Streak in the International Hurdle.

Song For Someone was a gallant runner-up on his first run of the term when beaten three and a quarter lengths by Nicky Henderson’s even-money favourite Buzz.

Symonds was pleased to see his stable star back in form and was satisfied the six-year-old had left behind a disappointing run in April when he was pulled up in the Aintree Hurdle.

Song For Someone winning the Unibet International Hurdle
Song For Someone winning the Unibet International Hurdle (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“We were very happy to see him back to the horse we saw at the beginning of last year,” he said.

“He showed the old zest and enthusiasm for the hurdles like he did last year at Ascot.

“He was probably a bit ring-rusty in terms of his racing but he hadn’t run for a while – I don’t count Aintree as a run really, so he hadn’t had a race since February last year.

“We were very happy with the run, we were delighted to see him back.”

Despite suffering a defeat this time around at Ascot, Symonds still felt the run was a more impressive performance than his victory in 2020, and regular rider Aidan Coleman was in agreement.

“I actually thought he bettered last year’s performance as it was a better race, but the handicapper seems to have thought the opposite and has actually dropped him (from 158 to 155),” Symonds said.

Song For Someone clears the final flight in the Coral Hurdle at Ascot last year
Song For Someone clears the final flight in the Coral Hurdle at Ascot last year (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“Aidan has felt that even when he’s won, he’s sometimes not felt as happy with him as he thought he might, but on Saturday he came back very ebullient in his debrief.

“I know we didn’t win, but we’ve run into an improving horse who has essentially outstayed us after they went at a good gallop, set by us.”

A tilt at a second International Hurdle title could be next on the agenda, with the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton on Boxing Day another possible outing.

“He is fine since, thankfully, I think we will either look at the International or the Christmas Hurdle,” Symonds said.

“The ground has been a bit of a question, whether he’d want soft or he’d want fast, but he seemed to deal with the ground on Saturday which was on the quicker side.

“I’ll look at the International, which he won last year, and the Christmas Hurdle. It’ll be one or the other, not both.”

Song For Someone out of Champion Hurdle

Song For Someone will not contest Tuesday’s Unibet Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham.

The six-year-old won both the Coral Hurdle at Ascot and Cheltenham’s International Hurdle before Christmas and was last seen chasing home Goshen in the Kingwell at Wincanton, finishing 22 lengths adrift.

Tom Symonds’ charge is a general 33-1 shot for the feature event on the first day of the Festival, but owners Sir Peter and Lady Gibbings have decided not to run.

Symonds issued a statement on Twitter on behalf of Lady Gibbings, which read: “Sir Peter is nearing the end of his life. Our wonderful horse, Song For Someone, has given him so much joy this season.

“Sir Peter is strongly of the opinion that the Champion Hurdle is not the correct race for the horse at this point in his career, and it is only right that we respect his view. Therefore, he will not be declared tomorrow.

“Tom Symonds has been incredibly understanding and supportive of our family’s decision during this difficult time.”

Monday Musings: Crime and Punishment

Sometime between Monday and Friday last week they got together and decided “Gordon’s not really a bad fella, so let’s not be too hard on him”, writes Tony Stafford. You could discern it in the columns of the Racing Post by his day-to-day journalist pals on the racecourse in Ireland as the original abhorrence to first seeing ‘that photo’ was gradually tempered into the “he isn’t really like that” version of the man.

So, by Friday, when the case was finally heard by the IHRB, everyone was patting himself on the back and saying a year ban, suspended for six months was “fair” and had “compassionate undertones”. By the weekend we heard Denise ‘Sneezy’ Foster, 67, who lives down the road and “has known Elliott for many years” was taking over the licence.

Apparently “she’s a legend” and has had ten winners – six Flat and four jumps – over the last five years from her small stable close to Elliott’s Cullentra House yard. If that qualifies her to run a stable which still had the mechanism to continue operations last week, sending out seven winners from 26 runners, including an up-yours four-timer last Monday at Punchestown, is another question.

The enormity of the operation in Co Meath, in the centre of the country, is mind-boggling especially in the context that its boss could often make do with Mrs Thatcher-like amounts of sleep after long sessions of partying and still be ready for the fray at dawn every morning.

It’s time to consider a few numbers. In the latest season, which of course was delayed by the onset of Covid19, Elliott has run 321 individual horses in Ireland. Today at Leopardstown he will send out (remotely I trust) the last six before handing over responsibility to Sneezy, taking his number of runners for the season beyond the 1,000 mark.

They have yielded 155 wins and earned €2.855 million. Over the past five years, 891 Irish wins have brought more than €20 million, only slightly less than the €24 million of his great rival Willie Mullins who this season, from fewer than half the runs, has 139 wins from 183 individual horses. Then there are the training fees on top. Who’ll be getting them?

I was intrigued by the six months suspended part of the IHRB ruling. What would cause its implementation? Would it require a similar offence to be committed in the interim six months? And if there is another similar historical photo in the ether showing him on a different stricken horse would that be the only situation in which the extra six months would take effect?

So let’s be honest. It’s six months from tomorrow taking him to September 8 and, while he does miss Cheltenham, Aintree and the big spring Irish Festival at Punchestown, from that point on, Galway apart, it’s something of a quiet off-season time for the top jumps stables in Ireland.

When Nicky Henderson got his three-month ban in 2011 that ran from July to October and barely ruffled his feathers in practical terms. While unable to go into the stables during that period, he continued to live in the main house and the horses were paraded on the lawn in front of his lounge picture window each morning. Off from July to October when he never has much going on, he was back in time for the first meetings at Kempton. Do the words ‘carve’ and ‘up’ come to mind either side of the Irish Sea?

Elliott will be in situ during his suspension and, while he voluntarily stated he would neither go to any race meeting or point-to-point fixture during the course of the suspension, no doubt he could still offer advice to the new boss.

We like to think that the concept of a punishment suitable to fit the crime is still valid. But when you consider how easy in modern society it is for an unwise word to be regarded as of an offensive nature and enough to earn a prison sentence, the Elliott picture becomes clouded. For a couple of days, outrage was universal around the world and racing’s always delicate position with its vociferous opponents was perilous.

Penalties in horse racing can be draconian. Look, for example, at the case of Charles Byrnes, an acknowledged touch-merchant whose six-month ban for “inexcusable behaviour” and negligence surrounding the running of Viking Hoard at Tramore In October 2018 was confirmed at an appeal last month.

The horse, a drifter from 4-1 to 8-1 before the race, stopped suddenly with seven furlongs to run. He had been laid heavily on Betfair that day and on two further occasions when Byrnes sent him over to race in the UK.

Each time substantial five-figure bets were placed by a third party on Betfair and no connection to Byrnes has been established. The negligence case on the Tramore run was based on the decision of Byrnes and his son to leave the horse unattended for 20 to 25 minutes when they went for their lunch. It was obviously the “suspicious drift” and the big lay bets that alerted Betfair who routinely share such information with the authorities.

Returning to Mr Elliott, such was the disgust at the photo that on the 6pm BBC news last Monday evening, in the headlines, after the news of Covid and the rest, they turned to sport. The first and only headline item was that picture. I think Elliott was very fortunate that he didn’t get the full year the committee suggested it meted out.

Nicky Henderson’s three-month summer sojourn didn’t harm his career – if anything it had more negatives for his then two assistants Tom Symonds and Ben Pauling when they left to start their own training businesses.

So suggestions that Elliott will be in any way harmed by his own gentle sabbatical are probably over-stating the potential impact. Gigginstown, his biggest supporter, quickly stood firmly behind him and they are no longer recruiting from the point-to-point field, so he’s not missing as much there either.

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Meanwhile, an inexperienced amateur rider felt the wrath of an Irish stewards’ panel at Leopardstown yesterday. Young Aaron Fahey, riding the newcomer Lake Winnipesaukee in the concluding bumper, was carried to the front of the field by his hard-pulling mount after four furlongs when the saddle slipped.

The horse continued going easily miles clear of the field until turning for home when he took the wrong course, going to the outside of a rail. Fahey, who has ridden three winners from 11 rides this season, told the stewards he was very tired and unable fully to control the horse which his father trains. They ruled him “negligent” and banned him for 14 days.

Clearly, it’s not what you do: it’s who you are.

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Denise Foster won’t be going to Cheltenham with the Cullentra House horses, but never mind Sneezy, nor am I. Neither will French Aseel, who has had a setback – good job I switched Triumph horses to Tritonic (cough) - but then Sneezy still has some left in that race even after the Cheveley Park contingent jumped ship.

At last count her new stable has 111 total entries at the Festival many with multiple targets. I’m sure while she won’t be there she’ll be checking that Weatherbys have the correct bank details to send her the trainer’s percentages, which must come to a nice few quid.

One race she will have to watch closely is the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle on the final day. Of the stable’s 34 last-day entries, a dozen are in the race Elliott loves to win in homage to the time he spent at Pond House in his formative years before becoming a trainer.

Another Cheltenham absentee will be Alan Spence who will have no runners at the meeting with On The Blind Side waiting for Aintree. One race he will have in his sights before then, though, is the Dubai World Cup.

Spence part-owned and bred Salute The Soldier, who won four of 14 races when trained by Clive Cox, only once finishing out of the frame. The partners were elated when he was sold at the end of his four-year-old career for 380,000gns after reaching a BHA handicap mark of 104.

Bahraini owner-trainer Fawzi Nass was the buyer and, transferred to his Dubai Carnival stable, the gelding won twice at up to Grade 3 level in his first season there. This time round it has been two wins from three runs for the six-year-old, first a Group 2 and then on Super Saturday last weekend he made all to win Round 3 of the Al Maktoum Challenge, his first at Group 1 level.

I tried in vain looking on the Emirates Racing Authority site to see whether there’s a breeder’s prize for the winner. With $12 million to go round there ought to be and I’m sure Alan would have been checking even as his great favourite went over the line on Saturday. If not, he and former co-owning partner Mr Hargreaves might ask Fawzi for a hand-out should the Soldier beat off the American dirt stars on March 27 at Meydan.

Kingwell looming as next appearance for Goshen

Goshen and Song For Someone could both be rerouted to the Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton following the abandonment of the hurdle races at Sandown on Saturday.

The Gary Moore-trained Goshen was found to be suffering from a fibrillating heart when disappointing as the hot favourite for the International Hurdle at Cheltenham in December, a race won by Tom Symonds’ stable star Song For Someone.

The pair looked set to renew rivalry in the Listed Contenders Hurdle this weekend – and while the weather has scuppered those plans, the rematch may only be delayed rather than cancelled, with both trainers identifying the Kingwell Hurdle on February 20 as a possible alternative.

Goshen suffered a dramatic exit in last season's Triumph Hurdle
Goshen suffered a dramatic exit in last season’s Triumph Hurdle (Simon Cooper/PA)

Moore said: “It’s disappointing we won’t be going to Sandown, but the ground must be bad for them to call the hurdle races off this early.

“It’s been a nightmare of a season for him (Goshen) really.

“The Kingwell Hurdle has got to be the next option, then if that doesn’t happen, you’re looking at the National Spirit at Fontwell the following Sunday (February 28).

“Fontwell wouldn’t be perfect as it’s getting close to Cheltenham, but I want to find out if he’s good enough to go to Cheltenham, more than anything. I can’t really go to Cheltenham off the back of what he’s done this season, but I might have to.

“He’s had no season really, but I am very happy with him at the moment.”

Song For Someone won the rescheduled Kingwell Hurdle at Kempton last season and has continued in the same vein this term, winning the Coral Hurdle at Ascot prior to his narrow victory over Silver Streak at Cheltenham.

Like Moore, Symonds is keen to get another run into his charge ahead of a possible bid for Champion Hurdle glory in March.

Song For Someone is making his mark this season
Song For Someone is making his mark this season (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“We had three options – the Champion Hurdle Trial at Haydock, which we avoided, the Contenders at Sandown, which has been taken out of our hands and the next one on the list is the Kingwell,” said the Herefordshire-based trainer.

“I’ve just been discussing it with the owners and there are only four races left for him to run in this season, really – you’ve got the Kingwell, the National Spirit, the Champion Hurdle and the Aintree Hurdle.

“We’ll probably take in two of those, if all goes well and he’s well.

“It’s annoying he can’t go to Sandown, but I’d rather ring the owners with bad news about the ground than the horse.”

Asked whether Song For Someone could head straight to the Champion Hurdle, Symonds added: “It’s a possibility, but we were hoping to run him somewhere again beforehand.

“We don’t want to wait for Aintree and then the ground comes up firm. I know it’s unlikely that would be the case.

“We’ll just have to see what happens over the next couple of weeks. It’s frustrating, but there’s nothing we can do about it.”

Buveur D’Air on course to return at Haydock

Dual champion hurdler Buveur D’Air is among just five entries for the New One Unibet Champion Hurdle Trial at Haydock.

The Nicky Henderson-trained 10-year-old has not been seen since being surprisingly beaten in the 2019 Fighting Fifth Hurdle – in which he picked up a nasty injury to his hoof.

Henderson had been anticipating starting him back in the Contenders Hurdle at Sandown next month, but the 2017 and 2018 Champion Hurdle winner has come to hand sooner than expected on the back of reports of a sparkling piece of work last week.

Ballyandy, Navajo Pass and Ribble Valley are all in the mix too on Saturday – while Tom Symonds could run his improving Song For Someone.

Symonds is also favouring Haydock’s Sky Bet Supreme Trial Rossington Main Novices’ Hurdle for Llandinabo Lad, rather than Newbury’s Betfair Hurdle next month.

Impressive at Bangor and Haydock earlier this season, the six-year-old found only My Drogo too good when trying to give 5lb to the winner in the Grade Two Kennel Gate Novices’ Hurdle at Ascot.

On the advice of former champion jockey Richard Johnson, Symonds entered his charge for the valuable Betfair Hurdle at Newbury – but he is more likely to remain in novice company.

“Newbury was a purely speculative entry, because it’s not something I’d thought about until Richard Johnson mentioned it after Ascot as an option,” said Symonds.

Llandiabo Lad leads My Drogo over the last but could not hold off Dan Skelton's runner
Llandinabo Lad leads My Drogo over the last but could not hold off Dan Skelton’s runner (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“Just with the weather and everything else, he’s earned his money to be entered in it.

“He didn’t strike me as one of those types, to be honest, so it was interesting to hear Richard’s view – and novices have a good record in it.

“More likely is the Supreme Novices’ trial at Haydock or the Ballymore (at Cheltenham) at the end of the month.”

He added: “I found it interesting after Ascot that he came out of it the best horse at the weights, but he was almost four times the price of the winner for the Supreme.

“We were thrilled with him – he just wasn’t as quick away from his hurdles as he can be, but he’s probably going to be a better chaser anyway.

Song For Someone could turn up at Haydock
Song For Someone could turn up at Haydock (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“We’re happy to be considering these races, and Song For Someone might head to Haydock (Champion Hurdle Trial) as well – and he’s in great form too.”

Michael Scudamore’s Nada To Prada, Donald McCain’s Minella Drama and Henderson’s Time Flies By appear among seven entries for the Grade Two.

Henderson’s Allart is the star name among nine in the Altcar Novices Chase, which opens the card.

Philip Hobbs’ Sporting John and the Fergal O’Brien pair of Paint The Dream and Silver Hallmark are other notables.

Royale Pagaille and Cap Du Nord, first and second at Kempton over Christmas, are among 18 in the Peter Marsh Chase.

Sam Brown, Sam’s Adventure, Potters Legend and Perfect Candidate are all in the reckoning too.

Symonds happy to take time assessing next move with Song For Someone

Song For Someone is set to face a Champion Hurdle trial in the new year following his big-race triumph at Cheltenham.

After seeing his stable star add the International Hurdle to his victory in the Coral Hurdle at Ascot, where he returned in style having landed the Kingwell Hurdle in February, trainer Tom Symonds said he felt it would need to be “very soft for him to figure” in the Champion Hurdle itself.

However, the Herefordshire handler has confirmed the five-year-old will receive a Champion Hurdle entry, and whether he returns to Prestbury Park in March for a tilt at the two-mile hurdling crown will depend on underfoot conditions and how he performs next time out.

Symonds said: “He’s come out of the race at Cheltenham well and feels very, very fresh.

“We’ll probably head to one of the Champion Hurdle trials – the Contenders Hurdle at Sandown, the Champion Hurdle Trial at Haydock or the Kingwell Hurdle again. We’ll then head for a festival of some kind. Fingers crossed he stays in one piece.

“He’s entered at Leopardstown over Christmas, but that will be too soon for him. He’s a horse who seems to take his racing well, but I think we need to give him the time he deserves.

“He will be getting a Champion Hurdle entry at Cheltenham and we’ll just see what happens between now and then.”

Symonds senses Ascot test is right for Llandinabo Lad

Llandinabo Lad bids to provide trainer Tom Symonds with his second big-race victory in the space of a week in the Sky Bet Supreme Trial Novices’ Hurdle at Ascot on Friday.

Six days on from stable star Song For Someone’s narrow triumph in the International Hurdle at Cheltenham, the home-bred Llandinabo Lad bids to extend his unbeaten record over obstacles to three in the Grade Two contest.

The five-year-old has proved his ability to handle testing conditions in winning at both Bangor and Haydock – and Symonds feels the more demanding nature of the track at Ascot could see him in an even better light.

“He’s in good form, and I hope this race will tell us a bit more about where we are,” said the Herefordshire-based trainer.

“We’ve been very pleased with him since his last run. We were talking about the Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown after Haydock – but this race came up on soft ground, and I thought we might as well have a go, because you can wait for certain races and the weather intervenes or whatever.

“I have slightly changed the plan, but I thought this race looked a nice opportunity in terms of where it lands in the calendar.

“We’d like a lot of rain, but not so much that the meeting’s abandoned!”

Nicky Henderson has saddled three of the last six winners of the race – and having decided against running ante-post favourite Dusart, the Seven Barrows handler instead relies on Sandown bumper scorer No Ordinary Joe, who makes his hurdling debut.

Henderson said: “Dusart was just a little bit quiet on Tuesday. We scoped him, and everything was all right, but we just couldn’t take a chance. He was just a little bit quieter than he should be. We checked him over, and he seems 100 per cent.

“No Ordinary Joe will now come into this. He won his bumper well at Sandown, and I think he is going to be a nice horse.

“I know we are running him first time over hurdles in a Grade Two, but we think he is capable of such a move.

“No Ordinary Joe schools very well. He has had the one bumper run, and I think it is the right time to go over hurdles now.”

Trainer Nicky Henderson is well-represented at Ascot on Friday
Trainer Nicky Henderson is well-represented at Ascot on Friday (Joe Giddens/PA)

Dan Skelton’s My Drogo, Jonjo O’Neill’s Soaring Glory, the Kim Bailey-trained Shantou Express and Press Your Luck from Chris Gordon’s yard complete the line-up.

Six runners were also declared for the other Grade Two on Friday’s card – the Sky Bet Noel Novices’ Chase.

They include the Evan Williams-trained Bold Plan, who bounced back from an underwhelming debut over fences at Uttoxeter when inflicting a surprise defeat on The Big Breakaway at Exeter a fortnight ago.

“It will be tough task for him, giving away weight (3lb) to the rest of them, but the little horse is in good form,” said Williams.

“He has bounced out of Exeter. I think this is a hotter race and possibly deeper waters, but it’s worth a crack.”

Henderson runs Allart, who makes his chasing bow and first competitive appearance since finishing fifth behind esteemed stable Shishkin in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March.

The two at the top of the market are the Paul Nicholls-trained Pic D’Orhy and Colin Tizzard’s Fiddlerontheroof, with Skelton’s Antunes and Kiltealy Briggs from Jamie Snowden’s yard the other hopefuls.

Assessing his runner, Nicholls told Betfair: “It was frustrating to see him fall late on at Ascot last time, because he had jumped brilliantly until then and was bang there going well when it happened.

Pic D’Orhy (leading) returns to Ascot for his second chase start
Pic D’Orhy (leading) returns to Ascot for his third chase start (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“I’m hoping he has learned from it, and he has done plenty of schooling in the last few weeks. For all his talent from day one, Pic D’Orhy has never been a natural over fences, so I always knew it would take him time to get the hang of things.

“He is getting there now – and with slower ground in his favour, I’m looking for an improved show from him.”

Seven horses contest the Listed Enter ITV7 Tonight Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race, including Nicholls’ pair of Knappers Hill and Stage Star, and two course-and-distance winners in Graeme McPherson’s Marble Sands and Richard Spencer’s Wonderwall.

Song repels Silver challenge to take International honours

Song For Someone continued his progression when just holding off Silver Streak in the Unibet International Hurdle at Cheltenham.

Trained by Tom Symonds, the five-year-old was dropping back in trip having won the Coral Hurdle last time out, but he had to dig deep on the run to the line.

Several hurdles were omitted due to low sun and there were plenty in with chances turning into the straight, but it was the chestnut under Aidan Coleman who continued on his winning streak.

Silver Streak, who was carried out by a loose horse in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle two weeks ago, finished with a wet sail under Adam Wedge, but he went down by just a nose to the 6-1 chance.

Goshen, the 6-4 favourite, had been keen throughout and got to the front coming down the hill, but faded out of contention quickly to be last.

Symonds said: “The lack of hurdles caused a real problem. He got out of rhythm early on and Aidan said he was very brave today.

“He did very well with no hurdles in the straight – as you saw at Ascot, when you are firing him at hurdles, that is when he is making ground, not on the flat.

“I’m delighted. For a horse to win three Grade Twos on the trot is a really big effort and he is only a five-year-old. He is just a fantastic horse to have.

“I’m thrilled for (owners) Sir Peter and Lady Gibbings, particularly Sir Peter, who is not well and has not been well for a long time. I can tell you the replays of the Kingwell Hurdle (in February) have definitely kept him going through lockdown, as he is in his own lockdown really at home.”

Symonds believes easy ground is key to Song For Someone’s potential Cheltenham or Aintree challenge.

He added: “It would need to be very soft for him to figure in one of those (Champion Hurdle or Aintree Hurdle).

“I’m not downing him, but I just wonder if he has the tactical speed in a Champion Hurdle. I was surprised he won a Kingwell in the nicest sense. We will live on today.

“We will see how we go, but I wonder if, on maybe softer ground, and even if it was better ground, two and a half at Aintree would suit him as we have seen with that race in general it suits horses that rock and roll.

“He is just a fabulous horse and I’m glad we didn’t go chasing.”

Coleman added: “I was in top gear most of the way, believe it or not. He has a fantastic attitude. He kept finding.

“Going around the last hurdle, he picked up again and he would have been an unlucky loser as he was just in front that little bit too long.

“I’m not sure if the old track in the Champion Hurdle would suit him, I’m not just saying because of Epatante or anything like that.

“He is maybe more of an Aintree horse. He has won three Grade Twos in his last three runs and he is ready to go up in company. He is a very admirable horse. A word for Tom Symonds as well, as he has done extremely well with him.”

Silver Streak’s trainer Evan Williams felt the omission of hurdles had detracted from the race.

He said: “We’ve got to do something about these obstacles coming out as it doesn’t enhance the spectacle. I’m not saying it’s cost us, what I’m saying is it has cost the sport. My horse got beat fair and square – that is racing.

“The ground is no excuse. He is better on faster ground, but the winner has won well. I never moan about getting beat. Our horse has run a great race and the winner has run a better race.

“We won’t go to Haydock as the ground won’t suit him. If the ground is OK, two weeks today we will be at Kempton to watch Nicky’s (Henderson) mare (Epatante) swoop by us going to the last and we will admire her backside and try to get a bit of prize money (in the Christmas Hurdle).

“He is a horse of a life time for Mr Fell (owner) and us and I’m very proud of him.”

Silver Streak out to atone for Newcastle mishap

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.”

Sceau Royal is enjoying a fine season
Sceau Royal is enjoying a fine season (Michael Steele/PA)

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.

Jamie Moore looks dejected after Goshen's Triumph Hurdle exit
Jamie Moore looks dejected after Goshen’s Triumph Hurdle exit (Simon Cooper/PA)

“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.”

Song For Someone to take International audition

Tom Symonds intends to put Song For Someone’s spring ambitions to the test by running him in next month’s International Hurdle at Cheltenham.

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 Saturday’s Grade Two Coral Hurdle at Ascot.

With that form difficult to quantify, after hot favourite Laurina suffered a broken blood vessel and was subsequently retired, Symonds hopes to learn more about Song For Someone’s capabilities in a recognised Champion Hurdle trial at Prestbury Park.

“He’s come out of the race really fresh and well,” said the Herefordshire trainer.

“I see the handicapper has put him up 3lb to 156 off the back of winning on Saturday. It was a difficult race to assess, I’d have said, from a handicapping point of view.

“We didn’t confirm him for the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle this weekend, and the plan would be to look to enter him in the International Hurdle at Cheltenham.

“I’m not saying he has to have it, but soft ground definitely helps the horse.”

Trainer Tom Symonds is enjoying an excellent run of form
Trainer Tom Symonds is enjoying an excellent run of form (David Davies/PA)

Having proved his stamina over the best part of two and a half miles, Song For Someone has the option of tackling longer distances, should he be found out for a lack of pace in the International Hurdle.

However, Symonds is unsure whether a step up to three miles for a tilt at the Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham in March would be the right call at this early stage of Song For Someone’s career.

He added: “We’re very happy with whatever he is, whether that means waiting for Aintree (and missing the Cheltenham Festival) or whatever.

“The only thing I would say is he’s only a five-year-old rising six, so whether you would want to go three miles round Cheltenham in a Stayers’ Hurdle at this stage of his life is a question.

“We’ll just take it step by step.”

Symonds has his string in fantastic form at present, with five of his last seven runners coming home in front.

Along with Song For Someone, another significant Saturday winner for the yard was Llandinabo Lad – who landed a Listed novice hurdle at Haydock under multiple champion jockey Richard Johnson.

“He’s a home-bred horse, so it was really pleasing to see him go and win a Listed race,” said Symonds.

“Our plan, based on what Mr Johnson told us, is to look towards the Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown.

“Soft ground really suits him, and I just slightly felt the track at Haydock didn’t really play to his strengths, even in the attritional conditions that we had on the day. The fact that he still managed to win was quite impressive on only second start over hurdles.”

Song For Someone excels in Coral Hurdle

Song For Someone made every yard of the running to lift Grade Two honours in the Coral Hurdle at Ascot.

Nico de Boinville executed a perfectly-judged front-running ride aboard Tom Symonds’ charge to see off Call Me Lord and hot favourite Laurina with the minimum of fuss.

The five-year-old Song For Someone had been off the track since winning at Kempton in February, but De Boinville was eager to assume control from the off, with 11-8 favourite Laurina racing pretty keenly on her first start for Paul Nicholls.

She was first off the bridle turning for home and quickly dropped away as it turned into a straight duel between Song For Someone and Call Me Lord, who is trained by De Boinville’s boss, Nicky Henderson.

However, Song For Someone (11-4) had plenty in reserve, kicking on after the last to win by five lengths.

Symonds said: “The way he won the Kingwell really sat with us and kept us going through lockdown. On that day we saw a different dynamic to him, as he won on a sharp track on good ground, which I didn’t think he would be able to do.

“Today he was quite fresh early on, Nico said. He came in quite early as we have had a few early targets, but the one I wanted to go for was this, as he had run so well here before on this ground. He loves this type of park track.

“His hurdling is brilliant. He is so technically accurate, it is a joy to watch. At home it is quite scary as you can’t school him slowly as he hits everything, but if you go flat out, that’s when you see him at his best.”

Symonds, a former assistant to Henderson, added: “I know Nico from the early days and I remember him leading me on Long Run round the bowl in Lambourn before his Gold Cup win.

“He just kept it very simple and the horse likes it simple like that, as he can keep going. He is a fabulous horse, he is so unassuming. I’m delighted for the team as they have been great.

“The plans are I don’t know what. It would not be my style to go for the Fighting Fifth as these races, no matter how easy it looks, take a lot out of the horses. I’m thinking you could look at the International Hurdle or the Christmas Hurdle, but the ground would need to be soft.”

Song For Someone earned quotes of 25-1 with Coral and 33-1 with Betfair for the Champion Hurdle in March, but Symonds said: “He is a really good horse, but whether he has the tactical speed for a Champion Hurdle, I don’t know. The one I thought he would have run well in is the one last season as it was real soft ground, but the track would suit him.

“It might be we go to the International Hurdle and have a go at that. He did win a Kingwell on good ground, but I don’t think Kempton is his track. It’s a lovely problem to have, but you just want to do right by the horse.”