CHAMPION trainer Nicky Henderson accepts that Buveur D’Air will have to be at his very best to win today’s Grade One Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle.
Henderson’s horses have been strangely out of sorts of late – with King George Chase hero Might Bite a perplexing fifth and last in Haydock’s Betfair Chase just seven days ago.
Yet, while Buveur D’Air has won the last two renewals of the Champion Hurdle, he faces Irish challenger Samcro and Summerville Boy who both won Grade One novice races at this season’s Cheltenham Festival.
“This, to be fair, will be one of the toughest races he has faced to be honest with you,” said Henderson. “Whereas the Fighting Fifth last year he was always going to 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.
“This will be as big a test Buveur D’Air has faced anywhere, and it is first time out.”
As for Summerville Boy, he won the Supreme Novices Hurdle at Cheltenham despite making mistakes at the last two flights.
“We’re looking forward to getting him out.
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,” said the aforementioned George.
“It’s a good starting point. He’s done a lot of work at home, but every horse generally comes on for their first race. What you had to be impressed by at Cheltenham was everything had gone wrong and yet he still won, which not many horses can do.
“He was still very babyish, so I just hope he has grown up.”
Meanwhile, Cheltenham Festival winner Kilbricken Storm continues his education over fences in the Ladbrokes John Francome Novices’ Chase at Newbury. Colin Tizzard’s seven-year-old was a surprise winner of the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle in March under Harry Cobden, but proved it was no fluke when going within half a length of following up at Punchestown.
Today’s test also features Rocky’s Treasure who was a wide margin winner at Wetherby’s Charlie Hall meeting for trainer Kim Bailey and jockey David Bass.
Tizzard and Cobden also team up with Elegant Escape in the feature Ladbrokes Trophy – previously the Hennessy. This progressive horse made a winning reappearance at Sandown over the well-regarded Thomas Patrick who re-opposes.
The race also features The Young Master who appears rejuvenated for trainer Neil Mulholland following wins at both Chepstow and Cheltenham.
“He has started the season well and has a nice weight,” said Mulholland, who served his apprenticeship with former West Witton trainer Ferdy Murphy.
“He has been rated higher in the past and I don’t see any reason why he can’t get back up to that level.”