All eyes on Simonsig's chasing bow
The biggest guns in Nicky Henderson's arsenal have been quick to find their range this season, notably Sprinter Sacre and Bobs Worth, and there will be high expectations for Simonsig on Friday when the grey makes his chasing debut at Ascot.
The Seven Barrows trainer confirmed his intention to give the grey his first start over fences at the track where he made his debut over hurdles last season, which he ended as the division's outstanding prospect.
Connections duly had to decide whether or not to persevere over timber, but decided over the summer that his true destiny beckoned over fences.
Their next crossroads will give them a choice of distances, as the horse answered doubts over his stamina by bolting up over two miles and five furlongs at the Cheltenham Festival – but is already favourite for the Arkle Chase over the minimum distance.
Friday's race is over two miles and three furlongs, allowing Simonsig the chance to confirm his speed.
With injury denying Big Buck's the chance to extend his immaculate winning run over timber to 19 in the Long Walk Hurdle on Saturday, his Paul Nicholls stablemate Ranjaan continues to be in demand for the day's big handicap, the Ladbroke Hurdle, his odds with the sponsors having halved to 8/1 since the start of last weekend.
After Hereford on Sunday, a similarly mournful atmosphere is likely at Folkestone today.
The holding group that owns both courses has not yet extinguished embers of hope for a reprieve at the Kent venue, depending on planning negotiations with the local council, but for now it will join Hereford behind locked gates. (© Independent News Service)