Song For Someone held off the late charge of Silver Streak by a nose in a frantic finish to the Unibet International Hurdle at Cheltenham on Saturday, despite being unable to use his razor-sharp hurdling to full effect after three flights were missed out because of the low sun on an unusually bright December day.
Goshen, who came to grief at the final flight in the Triumph Hurdle in March when a long way clear of his field, set off as the 6-4 favourite and he had a share of the lead jumping the flight down the hill, which was also the last in the race.
He faded rapidly in the straight, however, as Song For Someone struck the front while Silver Streak and Adam Wedge looked for running room in the chasing pack as it squeezed around what should have been the final flight. When Wedge finally launched his challenge, it was a strong one but delivered a split-second too late.
“I’d have been cursing myself if he’d got beaten,” Aidan Coleman, the winning jockey, said. “He just pulled up the last 50 yards, but he’s got a lot of guts. He could hear Silver Streak coming and he was trying, but on this sort of ground, getting going again uphill isn’t the easiest thing to do.
“I’ve been saying for a long time that Tom Symonds can train a racehorse if he gets the right ammunition, and this proves it.”
Symonds’s first thought was for Song For Someone’s owner, Sir Peter Gibbings. “Sir Peter’s not well,” Symonds said, “and this horse has kept him going during lockdown.”
Cheltenham’s winners’ enclosure has been the scene of countless celebrations over the years, but never anything quite like Mick Winters’s 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: “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.
Song For Someone is a 20-1 chance for the Champion Hurdle, while Epatante, last season’s winner, was shortened from 7-4 to 6-4 by Paddy Power.