Kempton Park provided a good day for the small Herefordshire yard of Tom Symonds on Saturday, 22 February. The trainer was assistant to Nicky Henderson for many years and was always regarded as a brilliant sidekick.
All he needed was a good horse to show off his ability as a trainer and Sir Peter and Lady Gibbings’ Song For Someone winning the rescheduled Betway Kingwell Hurdle demonstrated just that. Young trainers need a big winner to get going, so this should really help Tom establish himself.
The prep races for Cheltenham are over with and we now have the Festival preview evenings to entertain. Personally, I don’t really enjoy them because we all just argue or supposedly discuss the Festival races and potential winners.
I am actually doing one in aid of the WellChild charity, alongside ITV Racing’s Ed Chamberlain, at Cheltenham Ladies’ College on 5 March — so at least it is all for a good cause.
A fond farewell
Jockey Leighton Aspell announced live on ITV Racing at Kempton that he is hanging up his boots for the second, and final, time after riding at Fontwell on Sunday, 23 February. There are few better race-riders or horsemen than Leighton and, aged 43, it is probably time to retire, but what a career with a total of 922 winners.
He will always be associated with the Trevor Hemmings-owned Many Clouds, whom he rode to 12 wins, including the 2015 Grand National.
The Oliver Sherwood-trained gelding captured the hearts of many — a popular and successful racehorse before he passed away having won the Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham.
Extremely sad but what a way to go; please bury me in the winner’s enclosure if I die after winning a Cheltenham Gold Cup!
Leighton will be missed, he had a huge fan club and rode for many years for his “main boss” Oliver Sherwood, who I’m sure will miss Leighton’s input and horsemanship. It was a jockey/trainer partnership based on trust and friendship.
The British Horseracing Authority announced the new Horse Welfare Board’s five-year strategic plan last week. It is hugely important that all sides of the sport respect, take on board and especially get behind it — the future of racing is at stake and we would all be silly not to do so.
This time in two weeks we will be nearly at the end of the Cheltenham Festival. Winners, or even one winner, is all you want there as a trainer — it is our Mecca of sport.
Ref Horse & Hound; 27 February 2020