Wednesday 29 January 2020

Simple for Simonsig in Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle

Simonsig ridden by Barry Geraghty clears a fence on the way to winning the Neptune Investment Management Novices Hurdle. Photo: PA
Simonsig ridden by Barry Geraghty clears a fence on the way to winning the Neptune Investment Management Novices Hurdle. Photo: PA
Barry Geraghty celebrates after winning the Neptune Investment Management Novices Hurdle on Simonsig. Photo: PA

Simonsig won a dramatic renewal of the Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.

The Nicky Henderson-trained 2-1 favourite triumphed in the hands of Barry Geraghty, but his task was eased a little as Cotton Mill, who was sitting in second, refused at the second-last obstacle.

That left Simonsig clear and he cruised to a seven-length victory over Felix Yonger, with Monksland another 11 lengths away in third.

Geraghty said: "He's a serious horse. I was hoping it was going to be as it was.

"He's a class act, but he's more of a chaser of the making."

Outsider Fiulin blazed into an early lead, but Denis O'Regan was keen not to let him get too far in front and began to reel him in aboard Cotton Mill.

Geraghty all the while sat quietly aboard the winner, hunting round before starting to take a more prominent position four flights from home.

Cotton Mill was still in front at that point as Simonsig cruised up on his outside, but John Ferguson's horse was not finished with yet.

However, he stuttered into the penultimate obstacle, unshipping O'Regan and leaving Simonsig with the race at his mercy.

Henderson had extra reason to celebrate as Simonsig's victory gave him his 41st success at the meeting, making him the leading Cheltenham Festival trainer of all time.

Of the record, Henderson said: "It's lovely, but you feel a bit overawed as you're talking about the legendary Fulke Walwyn (former leading Festival trainer).

"We have been very lucky over the years and I have some lovely horses like this one.

"It's all about teams and people and I'm just grateful to all of them."

The master of Seven Barrows is looking forward to seeing his charge jump a fence in time, although he does not expect him to be tackling three miles.

He continued: "He's got so much natural talent you could easily run him over two miles.

"Barry was just keen to run here as he thought it might give him more chance to get his jumping together.

"He was still a bit untidy, but he'll learn and he's going to go and jump fences.

"I think the bigger the obstacle we might find the better he'll jump.

"I don't know if he'd want three miles as this (horse) is very quick.

"I see no point in going any further than you have to and he could easily come back to two miles."

Winning owner Ronnie Bartlett added: "We were always nervous about giving him so much hype and we didn't know if it was going to work or not, but the horse is fantastic.

"Well done to Nicky. He's a class act, he's really good at what he does, and he's a nice person to go with it."

PA Media

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