CHELTENHAM: Simonsig is the real deal

He may have only beaten the well-exposed Baily Green by two and a quarter lengths in the Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy, but do not doubt that Nicky Henderson’s Simonsig is the real deal.

He did plenty wrong through the contest, but was able to shrug it all off and still do the business.

The seven-year-old pulled like the proverbial train in the early part of the race and that usually means certain defeat round here.

Then at the fifth last, Barry Geraghty went for a big one and Simonsig put down on him. It took not an ounce out of the horse and he was soon bombing away again, behind the front-running Overturn.

Going to the third last Overturn, on ground too soft for him, came under pressure and when he guessed at the obstacle was beaten in a matter of strides.

Approaching the home turn, Geraghty finally allowed Simonsig to do what he wanted to do from the start and gave him his head.

He powered into the lead and though Baily Green never flinched up the straight, he was always fighting a losing battle.

A delighted Geraghty said: “It was harder work than I expected, he missed the water jump down the back and one or two others after that.

“It was very unlike him, but he was brilliant at the second last and tidy again at the last.

“He really rallied on the run-in, had to dig deep and battled, but I wouldn’t say it was a special performance.”

Commented Henderson: “Simonsig was just too fresh and has done well to win. He was running with the choke out the whole way and, even over the first three fences, they were going quick, but he wanted to go even quicker. He was just doing too much early on. We have always said he was not short of pace, but needs to learn to drop the bridle a bit. He made one bad mistake and was going too quick for his own good.

“There is another race in him this year, as he had has only three starts and has not run since Christmas. He could go to Aintree.

“He looks a two-miler through and through and you can’t see him go two and a half with that style of racing, even though he has won over that distance over hurdles.

“We will have a job to keep him and Sprinter Sacre apart next season. There are only four or five races for them, which is not a lot for one horse let alone two.”

Mouse Morris was thrilled with Baily Green. His ability to bring his inmates to the festival at the peak of their powers is well known and this was yet another example.

Baily Green hadn’t been seen since early December and, no matter what form book you used, looked outclassed.

But, given a delightful drive by Davis Casey, ran out of his skin to finish a clear second.

Said Mouse: “I’m delighted with that, my horses are in fine fettle. Jumping is his thing and he probably produced his best round of all today. Getting over the fences is three quarters of the battle and he proved that.”

Trainer Donald McCain reported of Overturn: “It was the ground, simple as that. Jason (Maguire, jockey) said he was never giving him the same feel as usual, never taking him forward as he can.

“When you come to a meeting like this you tend to get carried away and think you’ll get away with it. There is, after all, only one Cheltenham.

” In future we’ll follow the ground and go where it is suitable. We will look hard at Aintree and Punchestown.”

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