Things We Learned » Buveur brilliant

Buveur brilliant

Buveur D’Air was brilliant in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle on Saturday.  If there was ever a suspicion that JP McManus’ dual Champion Hurdle winner has not been getting the recognition that he has been due, that anomaly has now surely been addressed.

Racing for the first time since he won his second Champion Hurdle last March, there was a chance that the Nicky Henderson-trained gelding would be free and keen through the early stages of the race, especially behind the sedate pace that Jack Kennedy set on Samcro, but he wasn’t.  Barry Geraghty got him beautifully settled from early just behind Samcro.  You have to think that the rider was completely happy at every stage of the race.

We know that Buveur D’Air is a slick hurdler, but that talent was brought into sharp focus on Saturday, against the foil of Samcro’s hurdling technique.  Gordon Elliott’s horse was very good at most of his obstacles, but his technique is different to Buveur D’Air’s.  He soars over his hurdles, whereas Buveur D’Air flicks through them.  The reigning champ spends very little time in the air with all four feet off the ground.  The contrast between their respective hurdling techniques was very much in evidence.

Most of the great Champion Hurdlers had a fast hurdling technique.  Hurricane Fly hardly broke stride in getting from one side of a flight of hurdles to the other.  Buveur D’Air is similar.  If you photo-shopped the hurdles out of the video of Saturday’s race (if, indeed, it is possible to photo-shop things out of videos), and watched only Buveur D’Air, it would probably be difficult to determine where some of the hurdles had been.

It may be that Samcro is the second best hurdler in training – he finished 14 lengths clear of the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winner on Saturday – and it wasn’t ideal for him that he had to make his own running.  That said, on the bare evidence of Saturday’s race alone, he has a lot of ground to make up on Buveur D’Air.  More than the eight-length winning margin.

There is a chance that he will make it up before the Champion Hurdle.  March is still three months away and Samcro is still a relatively inexperienced hurdler, whose profile now is remarkably similar to the profile that 2015 Champion Hurdle hero Faugheen had at this stage of his career.  (Six-year-old, second-season hurdler, point-to-point winner, Ballymore Hurdle winner.)  And you can’t run scared of one horse.  But it is a big ask.  Saturday told us that Buveur D’Air is at least as good as ever, and that he may be even better than ever.

Hatton’s Grace runs deep

Hatton’s Grace Hurdle day at Fairyhouse on Sunday was as deep as ever.  Apple’s Jade was obviously seriously impressive in winning the feature race, as has been well documented since.  She pushed Wicklow Brave in front from early, she went past him at the third last flight and pushed some more, and she was never in danger.  She finished 20 lengths clear of Supasundae. 

In so doing, like Buveur D’Air, the Gordon Elliott-trained mare recorded the highest Timeform rating of her career to date.  160+, higher than the 158+ that she recorded when she won the Grade 1 juvenile hurdle at Aintree in 2016 by 40 lengths when she was with Willie Mullins. 

It looks like the Mares’ Hurdle is her ultimate goal again this season, but she is versatile in terms of distance.  She is one for one over three miles, and her record over two reads 1121122, even if she hasn’t run over the minimum trip since she got beaten by a nose by Irving in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle in 2016.  Remarkable to think that she is still only six.

Supasundae and Bapaume are interesting horses from the Hatton’s Grace.  Supasundae is never at his best when he is fresh.  Jessica Harrington’s horse’s record after a break of 70 days or more reads 1637832.  He is another who is versatile in terms of trip.  He appears to be equally adept over two miles and three, and he will be of interest wherever he goes next.  

A Coral Cup winner and a Stayers’ Hurdle and (Leopardstown) Christmas Hurdle runner-up, it may be that he is pigeon-holed as a stayer, but he could be an under-rated horse over two miles.  That is the distance over which he won the Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown last February, and the Punchestown Champion Hurdle at Punchestown in April, albeit after Samcro and Melon had both departed. 

Bapaume travelled well in rear and moved up nicely on the run across the top of the track.  He was staying on well and might have beaten his stable companion Limini for third place had he not made a mistake at the final flight.

Third in the Triumph Hurdle in 2017, behind Defi Du Seuil and Mega Fortune, and winner of the Grade 1 juvenile hurdle at Punchestown the following month, Willie Mullins’ horse couldn’t build on the promise of his debut last season, when he finished third behind Apple’s Jade and Supasundae in the Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown.  He was in good form in France, though, in the early part of the summer.  He finished second in the French Champion Hurdle in May, and he won the Grade 2 Prix La Barka in June.  Sunday’s run was his first run since and, still only five, he has lots of potential for progression.

Triplicate can improve

Quick Grabim was good in winning the Royal Bond Hurdle, and Ruby Walsh was very good on him, stacking his three rivals up and then using his turn of foot. But Triplicate ran a fine race to finish second.

Joseph O’Brien’s horse did not have a lot of racing room as the sprint developed on the run to the second last flight but, moved towards the outside, he stayed on well all the way to the line to take second place, moving past two talented rivals in Aramon and Commander Of Fleet.

Two from three on the flat for Aidan O’Brien, JP McManus’ horse beat Aramon at Listowel in September, and he got closer to Quick Grabim here than he did at Tipperary in October, on 4lb worse terms, when they had subsequent Monksfield Hurdle winner Easy Game back in third. 

The Galileo gelding is only five and this was just his fifth run over hurdles, so he should continue to progress, and he should do better when he gets a stronger pace at which to run.

Work in progress

Delta Work managed to win the Drinmore Chase despite the fact that, in all probability, conditions were less than optimal for him.

Gordon Elliott’s horse battled on really well for Davy Russell to get the better of Le Richebourg, a talented and progressive rival for whom conditions probably were close to optimum, with the pair of them coming nicely clear of their rivals.

Delta Work should do even better when there is a greater emphasis on stamina than a two-and-a-half-mile contest on good ground presents.  The Gigginstown House horse won the Pertemps Final last March at Cheltenham as a whipper-snapper five-year-old, and this performance puts him into the middle of the RSA Chase mix.  He is proven at Cheltenham, he stays well, and remember that Presenting Percy won the Pertemps Final in 2017 before going back to Cheltenham last March and winning the RSA Chase.

Benefit of a run 

Interesting that the first three home in Saturday’s Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury had all had a run this season.  It’s such a tough race, it may be that you need a run these days.

Smad Place could only finish fifth in the race in 2014 on his seasonal debut off a mark of 155.  Alan King’s horse went back the following year and, after winning a graduation chase at Kempton on his seasonal return that year, won the Ladbrokes Trophy (the Hennessy as it still was then) on his second run, off the same mark of 155. 

Djakadam could only finish eighth in that 2014 renewal, on his seasonal debut, and racing off a mark of 142.  He travelled well into the home straight that day, but just appeared to tire, as lack of a recent run may have taken its toll.  Willie Mullins’ horse won the Thyestes Chase next time off a mark 145, and he ended the season, runner-up in the Gold Cup, on a rating of 168.  26lb higher than his Hennessy mark. 

Willie Mullins went back to Newbury in 2017 with Total Recall and, after winning the Munster National on his first run of the season, showed the benefit of a debut run by landing the Ladbrokes Trophy on his second.

The last horse to win the Ladbrokes Trophy on his seasonal debut?  Bobs Worth, who raced off a mark of 160 at Newbury in 2012, and who won the Cheltenham Gold Cup the following March on his next run and ended the season rated 180.

© The Irish Field, 8th December 2018