Trainer Evan Williams is hoping that classy performer Simarian can book his place in the JCB Triumph Hurdle with a good run in the £30,000 Grade Two Wragge & Co Juvenile Novices’ Hurdle (3.10pm), run over two miles and a furlong at Cheltenham on Festival Trials Day, Saturday, January 24, 2009. The Wragge & Co Juvenile Novices’ Hurdle has a great record of providing clues for Festival glory. Hors La Loi III, successful in 1999, progressed to win the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in the same season before taking the Smurfit Kappa Champion Hurdle in 2002, while Shooting Light (1997) and Akilak (2005) both returned to Cheltenham to finish third in the JCB Triumph Hurdle.
The 2007 victor, Katchit, also returned to Cheltenham for The Festival to record a nine-length success in the JCB Triumph Hurdle before becoming the first five-year-old for 23 years to win the Smurfit Kappa Champion Hurdle in 2008. Last year’s winner Franchoek gave Alan King a second successive victory in the race and the J P McManus-owned gelding progressed to finish second behind Celestial Halo in the JCB Triumph Hurdle two months later. The well-bred four-year-old, previously trained by John Oxx on the Flat, has already twice been victorious at Cheltenham this season, staying on strongly on to win by a nose in the Victoria Garaipen Le Mejor Apuesta Juvenile’ Novices Hurdle at The Showcase on October 17, before returning at The Open for a more comfortable seven-length success in the Grade Two Ryman The Stationer Juvenile Novices’ Hurdle on November 15.
On his latest appearance, Simarian was a creditable fourth behind Walkon in the Grade One Future Champions Finale Juvenile Hurdle at Chepstow on December 27, despite making a mistake at the first flight. Glamorgan-based Williams said: “The plan at the moment is for Simarian to take his chance in the Wragge & Co Juvenile Novices’ Hurdle on Festival Trials Day. He’s come out of his last race in good order and I am keen to get him back running around Cheltenham.
“I was actually a little bit disappointed with his run at Chepstow. He hit the first flight and it is hard to recover from a mistake like that in any race, let alone a Grade One contest. He has been a bit clumsy at times throughout his career but he’s a very nice horse and you can’t be too downhearted with coming fourth in such a decent race. “He seems to save his best for Cheltenham and I think the course plays to his strengths because he stays two miles really well. He loves getting to the last flight of hurdles and coming up the hill. A fast run race with a bit of cut, just like he got at The Open, really suits him. “He’s been on the go since June, when he won a juvenile maiden hurdle at Hexham on Derby Day, but he keeps on surprising me with his ability. There’s been no kind of masterplan because I never dreamed that he would become a genuine contender for the top four-year-old hurdles. “He’s the type of horse that tries to please you with his work everyday and the racing doesn’t seem to be catching up with him at all, so we would have to seriously consider him for The Festival. We’ll give him a run on Festival Trials Day and then his next appearance will hopefully be in the JCB Triumph Hurdle.”