Bu­veur D’Air tow­ers over Sam­cro

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Sport - - RACING - GREG WOOD

GOR­DON EL­LIOTT was im­pres­sively suc­cinct after see­ing his hur­dler Sam­cro routed by Bu­veur D’Air in the Fight­ing Fifth Hur­dle at New­cas­tle yes­ter­day. What does Sam­cro need if he is to find at least eight lengths on the win­ner in the Cham­pion Hur­dle in March? “A mir­a­cle,” El­liott said, and he is prob­a­bly right.

The much-an­tic­i­pated meet­ing of three Grade One win­ners from last sea­son’s Chel­tenham Fes­ti­val was, in truth, an ac­tual race only for the few sec­onds it took Bu­veur D’Air to cruise past Sam­cro be­tween the fi­nal two flights.

Sum­merville Boy, the Supreme Novice Hur­dle win­ner back in March, was al­ready a spent force, while Sam­cro, who had set a steady pace from the off, was a sit­ting tar­get for Bu­veur D’Air, who flew past the leader a few strides be­fore the last flight. Even a clumsy jump there was not enough to in­ter­rupt his mo­men­tum and the dual Cham­pion Hur­dler quick­ened into a clear lead on the rain-soft­ened ground as if he was run­ning on tarmac.

The eight-length win­ning mar­gin was not even close to a fair re­flec­tion of the su­pe­ri­or­ity of Barry Ger­aghty’s mount after what was a flaw­less dis­play of two-mile hur­dling un­til his mis­take at the last ob­sta­cle.

Yet all the money be­fore­hand was for the up­start Sam­cro, who was backed re­lent­lessly in the min­utes lead­ing up to the off to start favourite at 6-5. Bu­veur D’Air, with 10 straight wins against his name, set off at 11-8 — the first time he has been any­thing but an odds-on favourite since his first Cham­pion Hur­dle in March 2017.

Pun­ters are un­likely to desert him so read­ily in fu­ture. Bu­veur D’Air is now odds-on with sev­eral firms to match the achieve­ment of Istabraq — who also raced in the green and gold of owner JP McManus — by win­ning the Cham­pion Hur­dle in 2000 for the third year in a row. Nicky Hen­der­son’s win­ner is still just seven and may well have im­proved fol­low­ing a wind op­er­a­tion over the sum­mer, so the stand­out 11-10 with Uni­bet, the Chel­tenham race’s spon­sor, may not last long.

“It was a con­cern com­ing here as it was such a strong race,” Ger­aghty said. “Sam­cro had the ben­e­fit of a run and Sum­merville Boy had form on the ground, so it wasn’t in the bag. He’s only seven ris­ing eight, so he’s en­ti­tled to im­prove and maybe the wind op helped as well.”

The race-fit Sam­cro was dis­patched so read­ily that it came as some­thing of a sur­prise to hear El­liott com­mit his horse to hur­dles for the rest of the cam­paign. “No ex­cuses,” El­liott said. “We got beaten by a very, very good horse. I’m still go­ing to train him for the Cham­pion Hur­dle, I’m not go­ing to back down. We’ll need an aw­ful lot of luck but we’ve de­cided we’re go­ing to train him for the Cham­pion Hur­dle and that’s what we’re go­ing to do.”

Gor­don El­liott: ‘No ex­cuses’

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