WHO D’AIRS WINS
Hendo: I was ready for a bloody nose, but Buv’s a champ
BUVEUR D’AIR swatted away Irish star Samcro with disdain to land back-to-back victories in Newcastle’s Fighting Fifth Hurdle – and take a giant leap towards a third Champion Hurdle crown.
Trainer Nicky Henderson feared his seven-year-old, winner of the Cheltenham two-miler for the past two seasons, was taking on “as big a test as he’s faced” when locking horns with Gordon Elliott’s Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle victor, with Supreme Novices’ Hurdle hero Summerville Boy also in the five-runner field.
But Henderson’s concerns proved groundless as Buveur D’air, made to fight when securing his second Champion Hurdle back in the spring, loomed alongside toiling leader Samcro running to the final flight of the Grade 1 test, his rider Barry Geraghty sitting motionless.
Despite an out-of-character mistake at the last obstacle, Buveur D’air, who has undergone breathing surgery since his latest start, sprinted away for an eight-length supremacy, with Vision Des Flos beating Summerville Boy for third.
“I was ready for another bloody nose, to be honest with you, but I think he showed himself a champion today,” said a relieved Henderson, whose Might Bite had returned a wellbeaten last of five when favourite for Haydock Park’s Betfair Chase seven days earlier. “I was saying – and I really meant it – if he was ever going to get beaten, it was going to be today. He’s gone above all expectations.
“There are other fish in the pond, but now he is the horse they have to beat.”
The bookmakers share Henderson’s view. Buveur D’air was cut to 5-6 favourite ( from 4-1) to emulate Henderson’s See You Then, who completed a Champion Hurdle hat-trick in 1987.
Elliott, who conceded only “a miracle” would see Samcro – now as big as 12-1 for the 2019 Champion Hurdle – turn the tables on Buveur D’air next March, said: “The best won – no matter what tactics we tried, that would have been the result.
“We came over here to try and take him on, and he just showed how good he is. Buveur D’air was excellent, and we’ve no excuses.
“I’m still going to train him for the Champion Hurdle. We can’t back down now.”
Colin Tizzard saddled a 1-2 in the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury as 12-1 chance Sizing Tennessee and Tom Scudamore galloped to a 10-length margin over 4-1 shot Elegant Escape.
“Sometimes, you get lucky, don’t you?” grinned Tizzard, whose Native River captured the race, then run as the Hennessy Gold Cup, in 2016 before landing the following season’s Cheltenham Gold Cup. “We left him six weeks after he bolted up first time [at Fontwell] – we thought there was only one race before him before Christmas.
“It’s lovely how it works out,” added the Dorset trainer, who could now send Sizing Tennessee for the Welsh Grand National at Chepstow on December 27.
BU-TIFUL RESULT: Geraghty and Buveur D’air win, to the delight of owner JP Mcmanus