Sam­cro is out to re­deem him­self

The Racing Paper - - Tv Races And News -

THE Fight­ing Fifth has been one of the lesser Grade 1 hur­dles around in re­cent years, of­ten at­tract­ing small fields with just one stand­out per­former.

But this year’s re­newal is one of the best in re­cent mem­ory, with last sea­son’s top novice hur­dlers, Sam­cro (who won the Bal­ly­more Novices’ Hur­dle) and Sum­merville Boy (who won the Supreme Novices’ Hur­dle) test­ing their met­tle against the dual Cham­pion Hur­dle win­ner Bu­veur d’Air.

Bu­veur d’Air’s win­ning run stretches all the way back to April 2016, and his only de­feat over jumps came in the Supreme Novices’ Hur­dle ear­lier that sea­son, when he fin­ished third to his out­stand­ing sta­ble­mate Al­tior.

That puts some con­text into what he has achieved in his ca­reer to date and, still only a seven-year-old, there is no rea­son to think he can’t keep up the pace for a good while longer yet. Bu­veur d’Air was sent off at odds of 6/1-on when prov­ing much too strong for his ri­vals in this race 12 months ago, mak­ing duel Fight­ing Fifth win­ner Irv­ing, and the 2017 Fred Win­ter hero Fly­ing Tiger look se­cond-rate.

It was good to see him knuckle down to win his se­cond Cham­pion Hur­dle in a row at Chel­tenham later that sea­son, as the ma­jor­ity of his wins have come in rel­a­tively easy fash­ion – es­pe­cially last term – show­ing plenty of grit and de­ter­mi­na­tion to fend off an up­ward­ly­mo­bile type in Melon who was well sup­ported on the day.

This looks an ob­vi­ous start­ing point for Bu­veur d’Air, who has won on all types of ground, so the fore­cast rain isn’t too much of a con­cern, and it will likely take a top-class per­for­mance from one of the se­cond-sea­son hur­dlers to lower his colours.

Sam­cro is bid­ding to do just that. He was a high­class novice last sea­son, win­ning his first four starts in im­pres­sive fash­ion, most no­tably the Bal­ly­more Novices’ Hur­dle at the Chel­tenham Fes­ti­val in March. Hav­ing car­ried all be­fore him in novice com­pany, con­nec­tions de­cided to have a crack at the Punchestown Cham­pion Hur­dle on his fi­nal start that sea­son and, although things didn’t pan out as planned, he would surely have played a ma­jor role in the fin­ish had he com­pleted, still hard on the bri­dle and just start­ing to make his move when hit­ting the deck three out (jumped well oth­er­wise).

How­ever, many were left scratch­ing their heads when he was beaten by Bedrock on his reap­pear­ance in the WKD Hur­dle at Down Royal last time, seem­ingly un­suited by the way the race de­vel­oped.

The mud­dling pace there re­sulted in the race turn­ing into a dash at the fin­ish, Sam­cro just done for speed by Bedrock – a use­ful hand­i­cap­per on the Flat – who picked him off soon after the se­cond last and shot a cou­ple of lengths clear.

The ground was likely plenty quick enough for Sam­cro, though, and that was put for­ward as a rea­son for him miss­ing the Mor­giana Hur­dle last time. He should have no ex­cuses on that front here, but whether he has the speed to be com­pet­i­tive at this level over two miles re­mains to be seen.

The pres­ence of Sum­merville Boy adds more spice to the pot, too, a horse who did noth­ing but im­prove last sea­son and, if you look back at the mis­take he made at the se­cond last in the Supreme Novices’ Hur­dle, it is re­mark­able that he came through to win in the fash­ion he did.

“He looks a chaser and the Arkle rather than the Cham­pion Hur­dle ought to be his des­ti­na­tion next sea­son.”

That quote is from the Time­form race re­port for the Supreme Novices’ Hur­dle, but con­nec­tions clearly feel he has even more to of­fer in this sphere, with his trainer Tom Ge­orge mark­ing him down as a “dif­fer­ent horse com­pletely” to sta­ble­mate Black Op, who got to within two and three quar­ter lengths of Sam­cro in the Bal­ly­more.

Ad­mit­tedly, Sum­merville Boy does have a bit to find on Time­form rat­ings with both Bu­veur d’Air and Sam­cro (11lb with the for­mer and 7lb with the lat­ter), but it is en­tirely pos­si­ble he can bridge that gap.

For all Bedrock beat Sam­cro fair and square at Down Royal last time, it would be a sur­prise if he were to up­hold that form, with this race likely to test more stamina than speed in what will likely turn out to be soft ground.

Vi­sion des Flos routed his field in a novice at Ex­eter last sea­son, and shaped well in Grade 1s after. He ran well re­verted back to tim­ber when run­ner-up in a mi­nor event at Ain­tree last time and will likely run his race again with­out pos­ing a ma­jor threat to the prin­ci­pals.

Bleu et Rouge makes his first start for Ben Haslam since leav­ing Wil­lie Mullins, but is un­likely to im­prove enough on last year’s form in or­der to fea­ture promi­nently here.

In sum­mary, it’s hard to shy away from the proven form of Bu­veur d’Air, who will not be de­terred by likely con­di­tions and seems sure to run his race.

Sam­cro is clearly a very in­ter­est­ing con­tender, given the hype that sur­rounds him, and he will likely be much more near his peak here than he was four weeks ago, but he still needs to prove he has the speed to lay up with the best at this trip.

No ex­cuses here: Sam­cro bids to up­set Bu­veur D’Air

Speed told: Bedrock came out on top at Down Royal

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