CONNECTIONS of both Buveur D’Air and Samcro have confirmed their intention to run in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle on Saturday.
It had looked as if fast ground would rule the big guns out of the first Grade One hurdle race in Britain this season.
But welcome rain in the North East has cleared the way for a mouthwatering clash, though both sets of connections do remain on weather watch.
Nicky Henderson’s Buveur D’Air, owned by JP McManus, is unbeaten since finishing third in the 2016 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle to stablemate Altior, and has won the last two Champion Hurdles as well as this corresponding race 12 months ago.
“I’ve spoken to Newcastle this morning, and they have been very helpful in keeping me posted and up to date, and I think they have had an inch and a half of rain. It’s good to soft, soft,” said Henderson who is looking for a boost after Gold Cup runner-up Might Bite finished a lacklustre fifth in the Betfair Chase.
“It is all systems go for Buveur D’Air. This, to be fair, will be one of the toughest races he has faced to be honest with you.”
The Gordon Elliott-trained Samcro also looks likely to run. He was surprisingly beaten at Down Royal by Scottish raider Bedrock on his seasonal return, whom he will be meeting again.
“The plan is to go (to Newcastle) as things stand,” said Eddie O’Leary of Gigginstown House Stud, who own Samcro. “I’ve had a look at the forecast, and there looks to be plenty of rain around, so I hope we’ll get there.
“We have to go somewhere. We’d prefer not to be taking on the Champion Hurdle winner, but we’ll know where we stand afterwards.”
Adding further strength in depth is Tom George’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winner Summerville Boy.
Colin Tizzard’s Vision Des Flos and Middleham trainer Ben Haslam’s new recruit Blue Et Rouge, second to Kalashnikov in the Betfair Hurdle last season for Willie Mullins, complete the seven left in.
Top mare Lady Buttons is on course to reappear in a two mile chase at Newbury on Saturday.
She was a popular winner of the Mares’ Hurdle at Wetherby on Charlie Hall Chase day earlier this month.
Her success has helped take the careers of North Yorkshire trainer Phil Kirby and Adam Nicol to new heights.
And the pair confirmed the yard’s wellbeing with a double at Musselburgh yesterday courtesy of Iconic Belle and Richard Strauss.
Meanwhile Nicol has teamed up with jockeys’ agent Bruce Jeffrey in the hope of securing additional riding opportunities from other stables.