Simonsig was an easy winner of the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle to send favourite backers into rapture on the second day of the Cheltenham Festival.
The well-backed 2/1 chance didn’t hurdle fluently at all his obstacles but he powered up the hill to win by seven lengths from Felix Yonger after Cotton Mill jinked and unseated Denis O’Regan at the second last.
Willie Mullins’ Felix Yonger ran a good race in second but was no match for the winner, with fellow Irish raider Monksland a further 11 lengths back in third.
Winning jockey Barry Geraghty said: “He’s a serious horse. I was hoping it was going to be as it was.
“He’s a class act, but he’s more of a chaser of the making.”
Outsider Fiulin blazed into an early lead, but O’Regan was keen not to let him get too far in front and began to reel him in aboard Cotton Mill.
Geraghty all the while sat quietly aboard the winner, hunting round before starting to take a more prominent position four flights from home.
Cotton Mill was still in front at that point as Simonsig cruised up on his outside, but John Ferguson’s horse was not finished with yet.
However, he stuttered into the penultimate obstacle, unshipping O’Regan and leaving Simonsig with the race at his mercy.
Henderson had extra reason to celebrate as Simonsig’s victory gave him his 41st success at the meeting, making him the leading Cheltenham Festival trainer of all time.
Of the record, Henderson said: “It’s lovely, but you feel a bit overawed as you’re talking about the legendary Fulke Walwyn (former leading Festival trainer).
“We have been very lucky over the years and I have some lovely horses like this one.
“It’s all about teams and people and I’m just grateful to all of them.”