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14 Feb 2011 | 19:15
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Winning start for super SimonsigHeadlines
Simonsig clears the last on the way to victory

Simonsig drained the pressure from a tense Nicky Henderson with a flawless novice chasing initiation at Ascot to become an even shorter-priced favourite for the Arkle Trophy at the Cheltenham Festival.

It soon became a matter of Simonsig (2-9 favourite) against the fences, as three of his four rivals in the Grade Two Betfred Novices' Chase departed at the first two obstacles entering the final circuit, and Sulpius was soon struggling to keep pace himself.

This was Simonsig's first outing since Aintree in April and he was visibly straining at the leash, so Barry Geraghty let him loose leaving Swinley Bottom in the back straight and he had a cut at a few fences before coasting some 49 lengths clear.

Henderson said: "I suppose we haven't learned much, but we know he can do this now. He will be an awful lot better when going a shade quicker, but Barry did let him go and jump them.

"This was as good a novice hurdler as I've seen in a long time and we seriously thought about him being a Champion Hurdle horse, but after a long talk over the summer we decided to send him chasing."

The trainer stopped short of comparing Simonsig with his beloved Sprinter Sacre, last season's Arkle hero, as he said jumping came "so easily" to the Champion Chase favourite, but the grey still takes very high rank.

He went on: "He's in the Wayward Lad on the 27th (at Kempton on Thursday). I'd say it's unlikely, but I'm not ruling it in or out. Remittance Man won at Leicester on a Tuesday so easily that we ran him again at Newbury on a Saturday and he won by something like 25 lengths."

Queen Mother and Arkle winner Remittance Man actually took this very race back in 1990, as well as following up in the Wayward Lad.

Geraghty added: "That was very much mission accomplished. He got the revs up at one or two but listened to me every time, and he was foot-perfect at the last three. You couldn't ask for much better around a track like here.

"He's a two-miler, not a three-miler. I wasn't bothered he was a little bit keen, that's what you want with a good horse."

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