By Jon Lees
Evan Williams has committed Silver Streak to the Unibet Champion Hurdle after new flu vaccination rules stopped the grey going for his first-choice target.
The Vale of Glamorgan trainer appeared to have dismissed a Festival challenge after Silver Streak registered the third of three consecutive runner-up spots behind Global Citizen in Haydock’s Champion Hurdle Trial.
He planned to lower the six-year-old’s sights and aim for the Kingwell Hurdle – but was unable to run Silver Streak at Wincanton because he had not been vaccinated within six months of the race, as stipulated under rules brought in by the British Horseracing Authority in response to the equine flu crisis.
“I wanted to go to the Kingwell Hurdle,” said Williams.
“But my jabs were wrong, so I had to miss that and I have ended up in the Champion Hurdle – because he had to go somewhere.”
Silver Streak won the Swinton and Welsh Champion Hurdle in 2018, and is yet to finish out of the first two this season. His two visits to Cheltenham have ended with narrow defeats in the Greatwood and the International Hurdle.
“His best races have been by far and away at Cheltenham,” said Williams.
“He’s done nothing wrong, apart from getting beat.
“If you’re a glass-half-full kind of guy you could say he has been unlucky not to have won his last two; and if you are a glass-half-empty type you would say he should have won regardless if he was a Champion Hurdle contender.”
Williams acknowledges he was probably too defeatist when he initially ruled out the Champion Hurdle so quickly.
“Sometimes it’s hard when you are second, so I can be guilty of being a bit bleak at times,” he added.
He knows, though, that the opposition will be very strong next Tuesday when stable jockey Adam Wedge – set to return from a hand injury on Friday – will continue in the saddle.
“Looking at everything in the field, I think it’s not a bad Champion Hurdle,” said Williams.
“There are horses in there that could be anything – when you look at those fillies (Apple’s Jade and Laurina). Then there is poor old Buveur D’Air, who gets overlooked and could be a treble Champion Hurdle winner – which we all forget.
“If I finished in the first six I would be delighted. To be placed would be fantastic – I would be over the moon.
“This grey horse is as good a hurdler as we’ve had. He’s only six, and there is no doubt if he can jump slicker he would improve. He’s come a long way in a short time, so the experience will not be wasted.”