As his first Graded winner as a trainer, it’s clear Song For Someone holds a special place in the career of Tom Symonds. Come Saturday, it could be a hat-trick of Grade 2 successes that the team are toasting, with his stable star set to line up in the International Hurdle at Cheltenham.
Song For Someone enters the race off the back of his second black type success, having landed the Coral Hurdle at Ascot last month, a performance that left his trainer thrilled.
“It was always going to be difficult for him the year after his Kingwell win, with his penalties that he’d have to carry, so we were delighted with his run,” Symonds told the Tote.
“It was probably overshadowed because Laurina didn’t really turn up on the day, but he still beat a horse who is a good yardstick in Call Me Lord, off the same weight on ground that would have been hard enough work on his seasonal reappearance, so I was really pleased.”
“He came out of the race in good form. He schooled on Wednesday and was really very good, proficient and quick, as usual.”
Having put up arguably a career best performance in Berkshire, Symonds is under no illusions about the task that faces his runner at Prestbury Park on Saturday.
With his Grade 2 win meaning he must give weight to more than half the field, he’s actually worse off with most of his nine rivals at the weights.
“He’s going to have to give a lot of weight to Verdana Blue and give weight to Goshen on Saturday, so my expectations are very realistic. He could run the race of his life and not win.
“With the penalties the way they are he will have to step up to figure, but then again he could just be the improving horse of the year.”
Champion Hurdle bid not a given
At a time when there has been much talk of how the Cheltenham Festival could be seen as too much of a factor in the national hunt season, Symonds is keen to stress that a crack at the Champion Hurdle is not a forgone conclusion further down the line.
The team decided to swerve the Festival last year and have in fact been pondering a step up in trip for the son of Medicean.
“It was tempting to enter him in the Champion Hurdle last year, but the owner decided it would have been a year too soon, as he only turned five the day after the Kingwell Hurdle.
“We would have loved to have tried the Aintree Hurdle over two-and-a-half miles last season, but never got there for obvious reasons.
“If he presents himself as a real two mile horse around Cheltenham on Saturday then fine, but he would really have to do that for the owner to warrant sending him there this season, because he is still very young.”
Grade 1 aspirations remain
Whether he returns to Cheltenham in March or not, it is clear Symonds has big ambitions for Song For Someone.
A success at the very top level would of course be a major moment, not just for the horse, but for the trainer too.
“I don’t want to tempt fate, but we’ve always thought a lot of him,” he told the Tote.
“He’s already run in a Grade 1 as a juvenile, and while it didn’t work out on the day, he still ran well to finish sixth.
“I’m not the sort of person just to run a horse in a race because they can, I’d thought he’d run well in it. When he walked back into the paddock at Aintree I realised that we were a young boy taking on a lot of bigger, stronger boys.
“But actually, out of the race, as much as some of them have been unlucky with injuries, he’s been the one to come out and improve beyond most people’s recognition.”
Symonds was quoted as saying that fences could beckon this season, but it appears he has had a change of heart with his gelding staying over hurdles for the foreseeable future.
“We thought long and hard about it, but I just felt there was unfinished business over hurdles. In the Kingwell he showed a new dynamic in his arsenal, as I didn’t think he’d be the type of horse that could win at Kempton on good ground.
“I said to Lady Gibbings that I feel that horses change disciplines because they run out options in the discipline they are in, but he’s not really shown that yet.
“If we had managed to get to Aintree last season and he had come out of it looking like an exposed horse that probably wasn’t good enough to figure in Grade 1 company that would have made the decision for us.
“I’d like to think the reason we didn’t go chasing will become evident in the coming weeks.”
Bobo a possible for the Welsh National
As well as Song For Someone’s quest for the top in the two mile hurdling division, the yard have an interesting contender in a very different race at the end of the month.
Bobo Mac remains a big outsider with the fixed price bookies for the Welsh Grand National at the end of December, but having run a big race in a trial recently, Symonds is considering his options.
“The weights have gone up 7lbs with Native River not running, so we’ll get in the weights but whether we get a run, I’m not sure.
“He ran a really good trial the other day, I was very pleased with him.
“He’s not complicated, but takes a bit of knowing, so to watch him jump round there and stay on at the death was very pleasing on his seasonal debut - he’ll come on for that run quite considerably.
“I just wanted to give the owners the opportunity to see what I’ve been banging on about for so long, because he was in the race last year but we never got there.
“He’s a high class horse when he’s right so if he gets a run, he could go, but if not there’s always the Eider that we could target in the new year.”
Should Bobo Mac get to Chepstow on December 27th, he might just provide the fairytale ending to the Symonds team’s season that has seen the yard bag two Grade 2 prizes and a Listed contest with Llandinabo Lad last month.