Cheltenham Festival: Simonsig retains unbeaten record over fences in Arkle Chase
THE outstanding Simonsig retained his unbeaten record over fences in the Racing Post Arkle Chase – but not without giving trainer Nicky Henderson a few scares along the way.
Henderson described the grey as a "bit fresh" and "running with the choke out" as he pulled hard under Barry Geraghty and made a couple of mistakes on the way around which might have stopped a lesser horse in their tracks.
The race had been billed as battle between Simonsig and Overturn, who faded with three fences to jump, leaving Simonsig to beat 33-1 outsider Baily Green by two and a quarter lengths in workmanlike style.
Henderson, the top trainer of all time at the Festival, admitted Simonsig (8-15 favourite) had given him cause for concern before eventually he got the race sewn up.
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Henderson said: "He was very fresh and Barry was trying to find the choke button to push it back in. He was probably just a bit fresh and he was rushing things a bit.
"He needs to have a bit more respect for the fences, maybe.
"The first mistake gave him something to think about. The way he was travelling down the hill, it frightens you a bit.
"He has so much speed and that's why were thinking about the Arkle and the Champion Hurdle. He couldn't go that speed over two and a half miles, that's for sure."
Simonsig will almost certainly be aimed at next year's Queen Mother Champion Chase, setting up the mouthwatering prospect of a clash with stable Sprinter Sacre, firm favourite for that race today.
Geraghty admitted Simonsig had made harder work of winning the race than he had expected and he didn't jump as well as he can, but he finished the race off well.
"He 'missed' the water jump down the back and one or two others after that, which is unlike him, but he was brilliant at the second-last and tiday again at the last," he said.
"He really rallied on the run-in. He had to dig deep and battled well and we got the result, but I wouldn't say it was a special performance.
"It was a good performance, but the ground is hard work."