Cheltenham Festival: Nicky Henderson relieved after Simonsig's antics

Odds-on favourite is headstrong and jumps poorly before claiming Arkle Chase victory

Nicky Henderson will be imploring the favourite for the big race tomorrow to go rather easier on his blood pressure than the one he saddled over the same course on the opening day of the meeting. In the end, Simonsig duly landed the odds in the Racing Post Arkle Chase – but not without reminding his trainer that he remains a work in progress, and no masterpiece as yet.

Having been restricted by weather and health issues to just two novice chases, squeezed into a week around Christmas, the grey proved perilously fresh in the early stages. Though Overturn obliged him by setting the pace, Barry Geraghty was barely able to restrain Simonsig, never mind control his stride pattern on their approach to fences. Somehow they negotiated most without undue alarm – though he did give the ninth a proper thump – and Simonsig had preserved enough of this surfeit of energy to coast alongside as the leader hit the third last.

But if complacency now infected those brave enough to have taken the odds, with Overturn dropping away, they still had to reckon with the hill. And here was Baily Green, at 33-1 offering fresh testimony to the Festival artistry of Mouse Morris as he closed on the bridle. By the time they reached the post, the roars of acclaim had been thoroughly transfused with relief.

Driven out to win by just over two lengths, Simonsig did not yet look ready to challenge Sprinter Sacre, his stablemate, in open company. But he has won both his starts at the Festival, and must be some horse to win this event more or less inadvertently.

"He has done well to win as he ran with the choke out the whole way," Henderson said. "He probably ran a bit too fresh and keen. He wasn't concentrating terribly hard on what was going on. He made one bad mistake. The rest of it he was just going a bit too quick for his own good."

Perhaps Simonsig will show the benefits of this race at Aintree, where he is likely to proceed after such a light campaign. Having won over another five furlongs at Cheltenham last year, Simonsig had encouraged some to hope that he could yet step up in trip next season – perhaps even for a crack at the King George VI Chase. For now, however, Henderson views him as a two-miler. "But he'll learn to settle," he promised. "He's got to."

Henderson endured an especially tense start to the meeting, having already saddled a hot favourite for the William Hill Supreme Novices' Hurdle in My Tent Or Yours. The horse predictably travelled well but was not the first to have his challenge for this race narrowly stemmed on the hill, Ruby Walsh having kept something in reserve on Champagne Fever. It was a superb ride, in a vintage race, with Jezki also excelling in third. The winner, who took the bumper here last year, will be going chasing next season and his jumping already makes it feasible to envisage three Festival wins in a row.

The Glenfarclas Cross-Country Chase was postponed after the overnight freeze and will now be added to Thursday's card.

Weather: Three-day forecast


Cold and dry with intermittent sunshine. Maximum temp: 5C.


Bright to start with, becoming overcast. Maximum temp: 6C.


Raining on and off all day, some sun after lunch. Max temp: 8C.

Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
Tovey says of homeless charity the Pillion Trust : 'If it weren't for them and the park attendant I wouldn't be here today.'
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Employment Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: MANCHESTER - Senior Employment Solici...

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little