I once asked a good mate of mine for his view on hurdles vs chases. “Why drink white wine, when you can have red?” he replied; declaring himself firmly in the chasing camp. Well my dear friend, frankly red wine often leaves me with a headache and I don’t think you can beat a good Chardonnay.
Whist recent runnings of the Fighting Fifth might not be considered of the finest vintage, yesterday’s renewal of Newcastle’s Grade 1 showpiece was certainly one to wet the whistle. Last year’s winner and back to back Champion Hurdle victor Buveur D’Air lined up against Samcro, attempting to make it not so much a second as a third or fourth coming. Supreme Novices’ winner Summerville Boy went out to show what he could do in the major league, whilst Vision Des Flos looked to capitalise on a recent promising run at Aintree. Bleu Et Rouge completed the quintet and the fact he started at 100/1 with an official rating of 152, is a reflection on the quality field.
Samcro set the pace. Buveur D’Air didn’t look fluent, but when it came to the business end of the race and despite flattening the final hurdle, won with unnerving ease by 8 lengths. After so much expectation Tom George’s Summerville Boy could only manage a disappointing fourth
Having conquered all, Buveur D’Air hasn’t always received the recognition he deserves and this was evidenced by him starting off odds against with the great pretender, Samcro, favourite. He must surely now be recognised as the outstanding hurdler of his generation, as he heads for a third Champion Hurdle title. It’s hard to see where the competition will come from.
Samcro trainer Gordon Elliott conceded after the race that there were ‘No excuses’, before adding ‘He’s been beaten by a very, very good horse’. The decision not to send the six year old chasing is now looking like an indulgence by owners Gigginstown, in the desire to add a Champion Hurdle to one of the few empty spaces in their trophy cabinet. Despite all the set backs, Elliott confirmed the Champion Hurdle remains the destination.
The sad postscript to the race was the fatal injury to JP McManus’ Bleu Et Rouge, making it a bitter sweet day for the owner whose colours were also worn by Buveur D’Air.