Hendo’s high hopes for Simonsig
The view from connections ahead of the Shloer Chase at Cheltenham on Sunday, in which Simonsig makes his return to the fray.
Simonsig: 'Fresh and well' for his return
Simonsig bids to follow in the hoofprints of illustrious stable companion Sprinter Sacre by kick-starting his resurgence in the Shloer Chase at Cheltenham on Sunday.
Sprinter Sacre brought the house down when rolling back the years in this Grade Two contest 12 months ago and it proved the perfect launchpad from which to reignite his career as he went on to enjoy an unbeaten campaign including a second victory in the Queen Mother Champion Chase.
Simonsig arrives in a not dissimilar position, having been sidelined for well over two years since last striking gold in the 2013 Arkle Trophy.
The flying grey performed admirably on his return last season, finishing second on his comeback over hurdles at Aintree before placing third in the Boylesports Champion Chase at Punchestown.
He finished down the field on his most recent start at Auteuil in May, but trainer Nicky Henderson is pleased to have enjoyed a clear run with his 10-year-old heading into this season.
"It's a bit like Sprinter – he comes into this with penalties long been abolished," said the Seven Barrows handler.
"He hasn't got a penalty for anything as he hasn't won a race for so long.
"His run in Punchestown was good. He went to France but that was in heavy ground which is no good to him over two and a half miles.
"He is fresh and well. He only had a short summer break, in his life four days is a very long time without a problem.
"His bones aren't the strongest, not brittle because they've never broken, but we just have our fingers crossed the whole time.
"Ronnie Bartlett (owner) has been so fantastic. We've had two months uninterrupted with him which is unheard of."
Simonsig will need to be on his game if he is to bounce back to winning ways with some talented opponents lying in wait.
Fox Norton was hugely impressive in handicap company over the course and distance last month and has since joined Colin Tizzard after being snapped up by owners Alan and Ann Potts.
Tizzard said: "He's been here two weeks, he's a lovely horse and we're delighted to have him.
"He came here as fit as a flea and he seems a very energetic horse.
"We'll see how he goes on Sunday, but the way he came past Sizing Platinum at the last meeting, it didn't look like he needed any further."
Kerry Lee's Top Gamble rounded off last season in great style, readily defeating Dodging Bullets in the Game Spirit at Newbury before signing off with another impressive victory in the Normans Grove Chase at Fairyhouse.
However, he has a Grade Two penalty to carry on his seasonal reappearance.
"I would much rather start him off in Graded company than run him in a handicap, which is why we decided to run here," said Lee.
"He's as fit as I can get him at home and everything has gone well.
"Having said that, it's a very hot race and he has to give weight away all round, so I don't think there's too much cause for confidence either."
Tom George is looking forward to welcoming Module back from a 687-day absence.
He said: "He was meant to go for the Haldon Gold Cup but the ground was too quick for him there.
"He has been off for 18 months with little niggling issues, but he seems to have come back in great form.
"He has done plenty of work but he may be a bit ring rusty as racing is a big difference. Whatever happens, he will improve for it.
"I'm really looking forward to getting him back as we have missed him."
Special Tiara has finished third in the last two renewals of the Champion Chase and returns to Prestbury Park.
Trainer Henry de Bromhead said: "Special Tiara goes in the Shloer Chase and he's in super form. It's possible that he could be aimed at Kempton (Desert Orchid Chase) at Christmas after that."
There are two northern raiders, the Nicky Richards-trained Simply Ned, who has been second and fourth in the last two renewals of this, and Micky Hammond's Just Cameron.
Dan Skelton's Savello completes the field.
Micky Hammond believes Just Cameron is ready to begin a new campaign earlier than the last one, which the North Yorkshire handler felt was a frustrating one.
"It looks a good race but it's a nice starting point for him," Hammond told At The Races.
"We started a bit late last season. He didn't have his first run until the second of January, but he ran a cracking race on his second start at Doncaster when second to a horse of Arthur Moore's, Dandridge.
"We were sixth in the Champion Chase at Cheltenham where he ran well. Then he had every chance of winning at Kelso when he made an horrendous blunder at the second last.
"It was a hit and miss season, but he's in good form and we're hopeful of a good run at Cheltenham."
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