Buveur faces his big test says Henderson
NICKY Henderson is well aware of the task facing Buveur D’Air as he attempts to retain his BetVictor Fighting Fifth Hurdle crown at Newcastle.
Already a dual Champion Hurdle winner, there is a school of thought which suggests the seven-year-old does not quite get the credit he deserves.
Quite why that may be given he is aiming to win his 11th race on the bounce, including two successes over fences – is not clear. But one thing is for certain – he will have to be on his A-game against Samcro, Summerville Boy and Bedrock today.
“This will be one of the toughest races he has faced,” said Henderson.
“Whereas the Fighting Fifth last year he was always going to win, the Christmas Hurdle he was always going to win and the Contenders he could not do anything but win – this is a tough starting place.
“He takes a lot of work, but is in good form. He has had a racecourse gallop. He is in good form, and it is his ground.
“It will be a fascinating race – what with Samcro in there, and Summerville Boy is a decent horse too. Tom George’s horses are flying, so he is going to be well wound up for this.”
Samcro was heralded as the second coming last season, winning at the Cheltenham Festival and being asked to tackle his elders at Punchestown, where he fell.
His reputation suffered a further dent when beaten by Bedrock on his return at Down Royal, so he is on a retrieval mission now.
There was talk of novice chasing this season, but the lure of a genuine Champion Hurdle tilt was too much for connections.
Trainer Gordon Elliott said: “He’s as fit and as well as I can have him. It’s whether he’s good enough around a sharp track like Newcastle, but I think Cheltenham will be right up his alley.
“I haven’t had a horse in the yard before that I thought could be competitive in a Champion Hurdle, but I think he can.”
Summerville Boy is also making the step out of novice company, but survived two bad jumps at the last two flights in the Supreme at Cheltenham to suggest he was value for a good bit more than the winning margin.
George said: “He’s had a nice preparation, but obviously we’re going in against the absolute very best which means we can’t feel our way, like we did last season.
“He’s done a lot of work at home. We haven’t absolutely drained him, and he’s ready for a season ahead of him.
While bookmakers are making it a three-horse race, it suits Iain Jardine, the trainer of Bedrock, to come in under the radar.
“It doesn’t bother us not being talked about,” he said. “Obviously it’s a tough task, but he’s earned it by beating Samcro.
“It’s different ground, which could be an issue, but he’s in good old form and seems to be improving.
“He was always underrated as a novice and wasn’t beaten far by Lalor. His form is rock solid, and it’s good to have him.”
Reigning champ: Buveur D’Air
Tough race: Nicky Henderson