Just how dual Champion Hurdle winner Buveur D’Air was allowed to go off as the 11-8 second favourite for Newcastle’s BetVictor Fighting Fifth Hurdle will remain a mystery. But those who kept faith with the Nicky Henderson-trained gelding never had an anxious moment as the son of Crillon totally outclassed his rivals, coming home by a comfortable eight lengths in the Grade 1 contest.
The first back-to-back winner of Newcastle’s premier hurdle race since Dato Star in 1998/99, the mount of Barry Geraghty looked potentially vulnerable on his seasonal reappearance with main market rival and “ talking horse “ Samcro heading the betting on 6-5 courtesy of a recent run under his belt. But Gordon Elliott’s Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle winner was made to look decidedly ordinary behind Buveur D’Air who simply toyed with the Irish challenger before taking taking the lead jumping the last and sprinting clear of his toiling rivals.
Needless to say the JP McManus-owned gelding was slashed with bookmakers for the 2019 Champion Hurdle with even money being the general odds available although Unibet are currently prepared to offer a standout 5-4 about the horse becoming the first triple winner of the hurdling crown since Istabraq in 1998/99/2000. Connections of Samcro still have the Champion Hurdle as their prime target this season but even an eternal optimist would struggle to make a case for the gelding turning the tables in March with the Stayers’ Hurdle ( 10-1 bet365, Betfred and Ladbrokes ) looking a more realistic proposition.
The big disappointment of the race was Tom George’s Summerville Boy who was never travelling with any fluency and will need to put this run behind him, possibly in Cheltenham’s International Hurdle, if last season’s Sky Bet Supreme Novice Hurdle winner is to keep his Champion Hurdle dreams alive. If there is to be a credible rival to test Buveur D’Air come March it is likely to be the Willie Mullins-trained Laurina ( 5-1 Ladbrokes and Betfred ) who will be making her seasonal reappearance in the near future, and nothing short of an impressive victory will suffice in breathing some life into the betting for hurdling’s greatest prize.