Tom Symonds is hoping returning champion Song For Someone will be back to his best for the Coral Hurdle at Ascot on Saturday as he takes on four classy opponents in the Grade Two contest.
The six-year-old made the most of a weak edition of the race last year, beating just two rivals – Call Me Lord and Laurina – before following up with success in the International Hurdle at Cheltenham in December.
Things did not quite work out as planned after the turn of the year, finishing a distant second to Goshen – who lines up as a rival again this weekend – on heavy ground in the Kingwell Hurdle and being pulled up at Aintree in April.
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Song For Someone has since had a wind operation, which Symonds hopes will make all the difference.
“He’s good,” Symonds told Sky Sports Racing. “He schooled this morning [Thursday] under Ben Poste and was his usual accurate self.
“His season slightly tailed off last year and I think he found the Wincanton ground hard work.
“I hope the wind op will be significant. We felt that at Aintree, it was a case of he didn’t want to be there rather than it being that he wasn’t good enough.
“I’m hoping we see a good performance, but in these kind of races, the best horse doesn’t always win because the penalty system ensures that. He has got penalties for what was a very good year last year and we’re eternally grateful to him for that.”
Song For Someone and Goshen are joined in the race by Nicky Henderson’s Cesarewitch champion Buzz, Cheltenham winner Guard Your Dreams and Wetherby victor Molly Ollys Wishes.
Goshen (far side) and Song For Someone are set to clash again at Ascot
“It’s his first run of the season so I’m aware that, bar Goshen, everyone else in the race has had a run of some kind,” Symonds said.
“I don’t think it was the greatest renewal, the Coral Hurdle last year, but he made no mistake and was impressive in winning.
“It’s notable that Nigel Twiston-Davies and Dan Skelton have targeted this race with Guard Your Dreams and Molly Ollys Wishes, who are not rated in the same band as the top three, but are in there because they’re improving types.
“As is Buzz but Nicky [Henderson] has been quite candid about the fact the horse might want softer ground.”
Trainer Nicky Henderson is hoping to give Buzz a run in the Coral Hurdle at Ascot on Saturday, but fast ground could see him switch to the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury
Conditions at Ascot – currently described as good to soft, good in places – are not expected to pose too much of a problem for Song For Someone, despite his last two victories coming on soft ground.
“He has won on better ground at Wincanton in the Kingwell when he started his Grade Two winning streak,” Symonds said.
“We’ll see what it is like, but he has handled most types of ground so fingers crossed it will be good and safe on Saturday.
“We’ll get a gauge of what it is like tomorrow but he should be fine with it. Ascot do a great job generally.
“I’d like to start him off here because it’s a track where he has run some very good races.”
‘Llandinabo Lad looks back to horse we knew’
Ascot is also on the agenda for Symonds’ dual hurdle winner Llandinabo Lad, who returned to the track when second to Hunters Call at Bangor-on-Dee earlier this month.
The former Listed winner could step back in trip to two miles for the Ladbroke Handicap Hurdle in December.
Llandinabo Lad won the Listed Newton Novices’ Hurdle at Haydock last November
Reflecting on his Bangor effort, Symonds said: “It was lovely to see him back and he turned the corner looking like he’d done the job, but then you see Aidan [Coleman] motionless on Hunters Call – a very good horse in his own right.
“It was frustrating and he’s been dropped 1lb for it but he looked back to the horse we knew.
“He’s had a wind op and I wonder whether two-miles-and-three-furlongs might just have stretched him a little bit so we might be coming back to two.
“If the ground is softer, which it should be by December, then we might have a go at the Ladbroke Handicap Hurdle at Ascot. His career-best was there in defeat to My Drogo.”
Moriko De Vassy made it two from two in his career when running out an impressive winner at Hereford at the start of November.
Moriko De Vassy on his way to victory at Doncaster
Symonds plans to keep things “simple” for the time being, but hopes there are bigger prizes to be won further down the line.
“We had him as a foal after buying him from France and he has always been very classy-looking,” Symonds said. “Plenty of horses are and don’t deliver so it was lovely to see him do it like that for a very enthusiastic team of owners.
“The plan will be to find something else nice and simple for him and then maybe look at stepping him up in grade.
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“We did have a look at Haydock this weekend, but I think he needs a bit more time to get over his Hereford run. I just want to go slowly with him.
“He’s a very exciting horse and showed what we’d hoped.”