Who D’Airs wins when fight­ing off chal­lengers to Fifth ti­tle

Sunday Sun - - Racing -

BUVEUR D’Air is surely reach­ing the up­per ech­e­lons of the best two-mile hur­dlers seen in re­cent years af­ter he swat­ted away young pre­tender Sam­cro to win a sec­ond BetVic­tor Fight­ing Fifth Hur­dle at New­cas­tle.

Per­sis­tent rain did noth­ing to dampen the en­thu­si­asm of the huge North East crowd at Gos­forth Park, as they came in their droves to wit­ness the best race in the di­vi­sion out­side of the spring fes­ti­vals for many a sea­son.

With Nicky Hen­der­son’s seven-yearold aim­ing for an 11th straight win, the gen­eral con­sen­sus was he would face a tougher task than he did in win­ning the last two Cham­pion Hur­dles.

That was be­cause not only was he fac­ing Supreme Novices’ Hur­dle win­ner Sum­merville Boy, but also the great Ir­ish hope Sam­cro, be­hind whom there was an in­fec­tious con­fi­dence – so much so he was sent off the 6-5 favourite.

As a re­sult, Buveur D’Air went out to 11-8 – the big­gest price he had been sent off since win­ning his first cham­pi­onship.

Jack Kennedy set out to make all on Gor­don El­liott’s Sam­cro – and while he had gone fast enough to see off Sum­merville Boy by the third-last, Buveur D’Air and Barry Ger­aghty were mo­tion­less in the wings.

De­spite flat­ten­ing the last, the cham­pion sprinted clear to win by eight lengths and is now gen­er­ally odds-on to em­u­late his owner JP Mc­Manus’ pre­vi­ous great Istabraq by win­ning three Cham­pion Hur­dles.

Hen­der­son was a ner­vous on­looker from New­bury, where he said: “I think it was re­lief more than any­thing. Af­ter the bloody nose with Might Bite (Betfair Chase) last Sat­ur­day, I was pre­pared for a sec­ond one.

“That was an in­cred­i­ble per­for­mance. He doesn’t make mis­takes, then he makes one at the last, but he picked up. There is so much more im­prove­ment in him.

“Last year’s Fight­ing Fifth was a penalty kick. They went a proper gal­lop, which was no sur­prise as they tried to stretch his fit­ness. They were test­ing me re­ally. Buveur D’Air rid­den by Barry Ger­aghty wins BetVic­tor Fight­ing Fifth Hur­dle Buveur D’Air rid­den by Barry Ger­aghty

“I thought it was very smooth and slick. He looked like a true cham­pion. He is what he is – a two-time Cham­pion Hur­dle win­ner. Some peo­ple haven’t rated him as a dual Cham­pion Hur­dle win­ner – I think to­day those are two good horses.

“He wasn’t at his best in last year’s Cham­pion Hur­dle – he didn’t go to Ain­tree or any­where else af­ter it, it knocked him around. I don’t think he was right at the time, and it’s great to see him come back and do that.”

As­sess­ing fu­ture plans, the Seven Bar­rows trainer said: “I can’t see why he won’t do Christ­mas Hur­dle, some­where – and you know where in March. The dream is still alive.”

Ger­aghty said: “Sam­cro set a nice even pace, and I thought he would have made it more of a test.

“He’s very good – he’s a dual Cham­pion Hur­dle win­ner. I only rode him in one of those, but any horse who wins two Cham­pion Hur­dles de­serves re­spect – and he’s win­ning every­where he goes. He is top class and a plea­sure to ride.

“You’d like to think the wind op made a dif­fer­ence. It was far more of a test to­day, but he got into a good rhythm so it was great.”

Proud owner JP Mc­Manus said: “That was pleas­ing. I have an aw­ful lot of re­spect for Sam­cro, so I was hop­ing he’d do that. Barry seemed to be happy enough all the

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