Tom Symonds claims it would be the stuff of dreams if Song For Someone could retain his Betway Kingwell Hurdle crown at Wincanton this weekend, as the nine contenders for Saturday’s race were revealed today.
The improving six year old, who landed the re-scheduled Grade Two at Kempton Park 12 months ago, features among nine entries for this year’s renewal of the two mile contest back at its traditional slot at the Somerset track.
Song For Someone will bid to become the sixth horse behind Hors La Loi III (2000, 2002), Valfinet (1993, 1994), Floyd (1988, 1989), Bula (1971, 1972, 1973) and Lanzarote (1974, 1975, 1976) to win the race on more than one occasion.
The last horse to capture the Kingwell Hurdle and go on to win the Unibet Champion Hurdle in the same season was the Alan King-trained Katchit, who landed both events back in 2008.
Having made a winning return to action in the Grade Two Coral Hurdle at Ascot in November, Song For Someone followed up that success at the same level, under a penalty, in the Unibet International Hurdle at Cheltenham in December.
Symonds said: “The plan at the moment is to go to Wincanton. He has four races left this season - the Kingwell, National Spirit, Champion Hurdle and Aintree Hurdle and he will run in two of them.
“People have said this comes close enough to Cheltenham but I’ve been very clear that the Champion Hurdle is not the be all and end all for this horse. I’m not sure why we avoided the race at Haydock but we did.
“He did come out of Cheltenham really well but in the back of my mind you think and know that they have had hard races in those type of races as they really do have to put 100 per cent in. The time off has done him no harm.
“I was worried at Kempton last year on good ground around a sharp track but he still managed to win so Wincanton should be fine and I see there is rain around which will help.
“The Kingwell is a great race in its own right and I don’t want to get ahead of myself but it would be the stuff of dreams to win it twice as not many horses have done that.
“If we had not gone to Kempton last year I would have been convinced I’m doing the wrong thing going here but he showed another side to him that day.
“He did well at Cheltenham with all the hurdles missing last time as he loves his jumping as he looks pretty hopeless in his work at home but as soon as he sees a hurdle he lights up.”
Among the potential rivals is the Donald McCain-trained Navajo Pass, who will be looking for a second Grade Two success this season having claimed the scalp of dual Champion Hurdle winner Buveur D’Air in The New One Unibet Hurdle at Haydock Park.
McCain said: “It was nice to get him back on track at this level last time and he got a good ride from the front that day. It was nice to beat Buveur D’Air, but he was coming back from a long break from an injury, but nonetheless it was a good race to win.
“He has the choice of two races but I’d say it is very likely he will go to Wincanton. He just gallops and is relentless and you have to be fairly positive on him as I’m not quite sure he has the necessary gears at this level.
“The ground will come into and I see it is heavy down there which over this trip helps him though he might be a better horse on slightly better ground.”
Looking beyond this weekend the Grand National-winning trainer is leaning towards stepping Navajo Pass back up to two and a half miles for the Grade One Aintree Hurdle opposed to supplementing him for next month’s Unibet Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival
He added: “We will just take things race by race. I would say the Champion Hurdle is unlikely. You would only get tempted to supplement if it was a weak race and it doesn’t look that at the moment. The most obvious race after that is the Aintree Hurdle and both his owner Tim Leslie and myself like Aintree.”
Other notable entries include Goshen, from the Gary Moore yard, Grade One-winning chaser Esprit Du Large, who is the representative of Evan Williams, and the Colin Tizzard-trained 2019 Tolworth Hurdle hero Elixir Du Nutz.
Betway Kingwell Hurdle
- Ballyandy 10 Nigel Twiston-Davies Options O Syndicate
- Calgary Tiger 6 William de Best-Turner Mr W. de Best-Turner
- Christopher Wood 6 (IRE) Paul Nicholls Ms Sharon Kinsella
- Elixir de Nutz (FR) 7 Colin Tizzard Mr Terry Warner
- Esprit du Large (FR) 7 Evan Williams Mr & Mrs William Rucker
- Friend Or Foe (FR) 6 Paul Nicholls Gordon & Su Hall
- Goshen (FR) 5 Gary Moore Mr Steven Packham
- Navajo Pass 5 Donald McCain Mr T. G. Leslie
- Song For Someone (GER) 6 Tom Symonds Sir Peter & Lady Gibbings