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.”

Verdana Blue takes centre stage on high-class Kempton card

Nicky Henderson believes talented dual-purpose performer Verdana Blue has plenty in her favour as she bids to return to winning ways at Kempton on Sunday.

Having been forced to miss last weekend’s Cesarewitch at Newmarket with an abscess in her foot, the eight-year-old mare will switch codes in the Racing TV Hurdle – a two-mile Listed prize she landed in 2018 en route to claiming the Grade One Christmas Hurdle over course and distance later in the year.

Although only sighted over hurdles once last season Verdana Blue has run two respectable races in defeat on the Flat this campaign, having finished second in the Ascot Stakes at the Royal meeting and third in the Ebor.

Henderson said: “She ran a great race in the Ebor and at Royal Ascot, and she got rain both times which she didn’t need.

“Two miles around Kempton on good ground is ideal for her. Conditions suit her and she has won it before. She has got rid of her Grade One penalty.

“The abscess did hold us up, but it cleared by Sunday and she has had a good week. She did a very nice piece of work earlier in the week and schooled very professionally as well.

“She is the most admirable, tough and genuine thing that I’ve come across and this is a nice race for her – she has the figures in her favour.”

Nicky Henderson expects Brain Power to come on for his first run at Kempton on Sunday (David Davies/PA)
Nicky Henderson expects Brain Power to come on for his first run at Kempton on Sunday (David Davies/PA)

The Seven Barrows trainer will also be represented by Brain Power, who will be making his first start since landing last year’s American Grand National at Far Hills.

Henderson added: “We were going to go back to America, but the race itself was abandoned this year. He needs a run and is in good form, but he is all wrong at the weights with Verdana Blue.

“He probably will need this, but we will get him ready to go there and do his best. He worked on Tuesday and worked extremely well.

“He hasn’t run since America last year and we had brought him back for the spring, but that didn’t happen. He has been on the go for a long time and I’m desperate to get him out.”

Diego Du Charmil will start his season off like he ended the last with an outing at Kempton over hurdles (David Davies/PA)
Diego Du Charmil will start his season off like he ended the last with an outing at Kempton over hurdles (David Davies/PA)

The Paul Nicholls-trained Diego Du Charmil is better known as a chaser, but he found only Song For Someone too strong in the rearranged Kingwell Hurdle at the track on his final start last season.

His rider Harry Cobden said: “It is a competitive race and we have to give Verdana Blue 7lb, which isn’t ideal as she is pretty good on her day and she will love the ground there and conditions are in her favour.

“Diego Du Charmil will turn up though and give his running. Whether he is good enough, I’m not sure, but he will run a good race.

“He is good fresh and is one of those horses that is good over hurdles and fences and is not 20lb better over one of them.”

Nicholls and Cobden will team up in another Listed event on the card, with Fidelio Vallis in the Racing TV Novices’ Hurdle.

He said: “He was very good at the end of last season and made all at the track on his last start.

“He was quite keen early on and the second time he ran he fell. We went to Wincanton after that and made all with him, then we went to Kempton and he looked pretty smart and got a mark of 138.

“Hopefully he has improved and he looks like he has. Whatever he does on Sunday will be a good stepping stone for the season.  He is entitled to be in the race and I think he has got a good chance.”

Alex Hales hopes For Pleasure can take a step up in class in his stride and complete a four-timer.

He said: “I’ve been delighted with him, he has had a great summer and I’m looking forward to running him. We did look at the Prelude at Market Rasen, but we decided to wait as we thought this was the right race for him.

“We did try to hold him up in the past, but we have just let him get on with it out in front and that has been key to him winning.

“Paul Nicholls’ horses are in great form and his runner will be hard to beat, as he was impressive on his last run at the track, but we are top-rated and we have race-fitness on our side.”

Verdana Blue ruled out of Cesarewitch

Leading Cesarewitch contender Verdana Blue will miss the big Newmarket handicap on Saturday.

The versatile Nicky Henderson-trained mare, who is owned by Michael Tabor’s wife, Doreen, was a general 10-1 chance for the two-mile-two-furlong feature, having most recently been seen finishing third in the Ebor at York.

Prior to that the eight-year-old had been second in the Ascot Stakes at the Royal meeting, beaten a length by Coeur De Lion.

Verdana Blue (black and white colours) went down fighting at Royal Ascot
Verdana Blue (black and white colours) went down fighting at Royal Ascot (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Henderson told the PA news agency: “She has got an abscess in her foot and is not going to make the Cesarewitch, I’m afraid. We’ve had to give her something to relieve it and unfortunately she can’t run. She had worked at the weekend and everything was fine.

“She’s one of the shorter-priced runners and we wanted to say something.”

He added: “I’m hopeful there are races for her next weekend – she’s in the two-mile race at Ascot (Long Distance Cup on Saturday), but very possibly if Ascot is soft she could go to Kempton (on Sunday) for the Listed hurdle there, where she’d get her ground with a bit of luck.”