Tom Symonds will be hoping Llandinabo Lad can demonstrate to punters that he’s no back number in the biggest novice events this season when lining up in Saturday’s Rossington Main Novices' Hurdle at Haydock.
The six-year-old lost his unbeaten record over timber at Ascot before Christmas, going down valiantly to My Drogo by less than three lengths.
His trainer spoke to Tote and emphasised that his charge lost nothing in defeat that day, and should relish the return to Merseyside;
“I don’t think he did anything wrong at Ascot, he just ran into an unknown quantity who looks pretty good,” expressed Symonds.
“He won a Listed contest at Haydock before, he’s a course and distance winner and ticks a lot of the boxes.”
That victory in the Newton Novices’ Hurdle back in November marked the son of Malinas out as a horse who could be a player at the Cheltenham Festival. However, according to many fixed priced bookmakers he needs to do an awful lot more to feature wherever he turns up.
“I don’t often take any note of prices, but I’ve seen them on TV and it’s interesting because a lot of the horses that he’s beaten so far are shorter than him in the betting.”
“Even My Drogo who he gave weight to and didn’t run badly behind is a much shorter price than him. He’s right up there on ratings, and so are the form lines, but it’s interesting to see that he’s not really considered at the moment. Hopefully he’ll present himself well at Cheltenham and we’ll see how we go.”
Cheltenham target up in the air
In which race his runner lines up in remains to be seen with the Supreme Trial this weekend pointing to the opening race of the Festival, but Symonds is keen to point out it’s not set in stone.
“His Cheltenham Festival target would depend on the weather.”
“I do however think a try over two and a half around Cheltenham would be interesting for him. I’ve been talking to Richard Johnson about it and he said that the way he runs probably would suit going further.”
Before any real thoughts of the Cheltenham Festival develop, Symonds’ gelding must dispatch of his four rivals in the Rossington Main on Saturday
Two options for Song For Someone
Symonds might have been double-handed at Haydock on Saturday but for a late change of heart, with Song For Someone not declared for the Champion Hurdle Trial.
Reflecting on his hard fought win in the International Hurdle at Cheltenham before Christmas, Symonds was impressed at the manner of his victory, considering the omitted hurdles in the straight.
“Aidan [Coleman] said that at the start of the race the horse just felt like he was a bit lost, and what that said to me was that he was simply looking for something to jump,” Symonds told Tote.
“Jumping really is what he loves doing, he certainly wouldn’t win any flat races at home. That’s not a criticism of the horse, it’s just the way he is, he’s a proper jumps horse. If he ran in a jumpers bumper it would be embarrassing to be honest!“
“He gave weight to Silver Streak when winning, who is obviously a very decent horse on what he has shown subsequently, and suggests that our horse is right there with the top hurdlers.”
That victory over Evan Williams’ grey looked especially good when Silver Streak brushed aside Epatante in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton.
Asked on whether the defeat of the defending champ opened things up in the Champion Hurdle picture for his charge, Symonds was keen not write off Nicky Henderson's mare just yet.
“Having worked for Nicky Henderson I know that when things like that happen, it’ll make him even more sure to get her right next time.”
“It does make things a bit more open, but I don’t really look at things like that. I just focus on the horse I Iook at everyday, and only ask him to do thing I think he can do.”
As to what his next target could be prior to Cheltenham, Symonds earmarked has the Contenders Hurdle at Sandown, where he may well bump into Epatante, or a defence of his Kingwell Hurdle crown at Wincanton as possibilities.
Patience key to this season’s successes
Song For Someone and Llandinabo Lad combined to provide the yard a day to remember in November, with the latter’s Listed triumph coinciding with an Ascot Hurdle victory for his stablemate.
In the time since the Dason Court handler has surpassed his best tally of wins for a campaign, and is in flying form.
“It’s been brilliant, the horses have all been running well. I always get a bit worried when we hit the ground running early in the season, but please God, the horses can remain healthy and fit and we can carry on doing what we are doing.
“Every winner obviously matters, but it’s been nice to see the horses who we thought would fly the flag are doing just that and hitting the big stage when there are the opportunities to do so..
Asked whether there was a particular reason he can pin-point for this season’s triumphs, Symonds pointed to his patient approach with his horses.
“Song For Someone came to us as a juvenile and has just evolved into a good horse. I’d like to think we’ve played our part, but he’s just come of age really. There’s not much we could have done with him a couple of years ago, because he wasn’t ready. If you try to run horses in races when they are not ready to do so, you’re not likely to get anywhere.”
“Llandinabo Lad wasn’t very busy either. Hopefully that bit of patience we had is now starting to pay off. We may have some young ones who might not be doing an awful lot now, but hopefully next year or the year after they might show a similar amount of improvement.”
And as for targets, Symonds is simply happy to take each day as it comes;
“It’s probably good to set targets from a sports mentality side of things. But when you’re dealing with something ephemeral, or indeed, sometimes frustrating, as a horse it doesn’t really do you any good!”
Llandinabo Lad runs in the Rossington Main Novices’ Hurdle at 13:30 at Haydock on Saturday. You can watch and bet on the race at Tote.