Winter sunshine made for a pleasant afternoon for 2,000 racegoers here, but Tom Symonds feared it had put paid to Song For Someone’s chance in the International Hurdle when the stewards decided the two flights in the straight would be omitted from the race.
Song For Someone is, after all, as slick and accurate over a hurdle as any horse in training, frequently gaining ground on his field at every flight. But he has other qualities too, including a tenacity in the finish that enabled him to scrape home by a nose from the fast-finishing Silver Streak, having jumped just a single flight in the previous three-quarters of a mile.
“The lack of hurdles was a real problem,” Symonds said. “He got out of rhythm early on and Aidan [Coleman, his jockey] said he was very brave today. He did very well with no hurdles in the straight. As he showed at Ascot [in last month’s Coral Hurdle], when you are firing him at hurdles, that’s when he’s making ground, not on the Flat.
“I’m thrilled for [his owners] Sir Peter and Lady Gibbings, particularly Sir Peter, who is not well and has not been well for a long time. The replays of the Kingwell Hurdle [which he won in February] have definitely kept him going through lockdown, as he is in his own lockdown at home, really.”
The International Hurdle has been won by future Champion Hurdlers in the past and Song For Someone is now around 20-1 to be the next, but Symonds feels he may just lack the speed for a two-mile Grade One on spring ground. “It would need to be very soft for him to figure,” he said. “I’m not downing him, but I just wonder if he has the tactical speed in a Champion Hurdle. I was surprised when he won a [two‑mile] Kingwell, in the nicest sense.”
Coleman will not be too disappointed by Symonds’ caution as he will be aboard Epatante, the reigning champion, in March, and her price to retain her crown shortened closer to even-money after Saturday’s race following a disappointing run by Goshen, the 6-4 favourite, in the International.
Goshen’s freak departure after jumping the final flight in the Triumph Hurdle with the race at his mercy is an abiding image of last season’s Festival, and there was to be no redemption for Goshen and Jamie Moore, his jockey, as he faded rapidly after pulling his way to the front going down the hill.
Greg Wood’s Sunday tips
11.40 Blue Dawn 12.10 Vanitas 12.45 Obtuse
1.15 Sir Rodneyredblood 1.45 Kick On Kick On
2.20 Coupe De Champagne
3.20 Cafe Sydney
12.00 Sextant 12.35 Gold Runner 1.05 Gallopongray 1.35 Jonniesofa 2.10 Aurora Thunder 2.40 Looksnowtlikebrian 3.10 Lagonda
12.55 Debden Bank (nb)
1.25 Bennie Boy
1.55 Mocacreme Has
2.30 Drewmain Legend (nap)
3.00 Ocean Drifter
3.30 Towards The Dawn
Cheltenham’s winners’ enclosure has been the scene of countless celebrations over the years, but never anything quite like Mick Winters’ reaction after Chatham Street Lad’s easy success in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup.
Winters had a quick roll on the mud where Chatham Street Lad had just been unsaddled, explaining afterwards: “Pigs are always happiest when they’re rolling around in muck, so I said that if we won, I’d roll around in it too.”
Since his winner set off at 16-1, it was probably one of those promises he did not expect to be required to keep, but his eight-year-old was clearly going best on the run down the hill, flew the last with the race already won and quickened 15 lengths clear on the run to the line.