Horse Racing: What we learned from the Fighting Fifth

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WLB debutant and horse racing fanatic Josh Abley (@Josh_Abley) reviews a thrilling Fighting Fifth win for Buveur D'Air last weekend.

What we learned from the Fighting Fifth

It’s not often the newly named Ladbrokes Trophy takes a back seat on the first weekend in December. But this was the case last weekend when the Fighting Fifth had one of its greatest-ever renewals in its 49-year history.

Buveur D’Air, the dual Champion Hurdle winner was coming up against the Ballymore Novice Hurdle winner Samcro, and also the Supreme Novice Hurdle champion Summerville Boy. It promised to be one of the great races of the season, but I left Newcastle feeling slightly underwhelmed, despite Buveur D’Air’s scintillating performance.

Buveur D’Air is better than ever

The first thing we learnt was, Buveur D’Air is better than ever. It is unclear how needed his wind operation was in the summer but it clearly had the desired effect. He cruised into the race and I for one could not believe how well he was travelling in between two out and the last. He jumped economically, as ever, and despite smashing into the last, his momentum was not stopped.

Buveur D’Air’s superb hurdling has been a theme throughout his three-year unbeaten run and it again played a role in the spanking of Samcro, which is how the owner of the Irish superstar described his defeat.

What I’m sure was most pleasing to see for Buveur D’Air’s connections was his electric turn of foot that had the race won within a matter of strides when Barry Geraghty asked him to win his race. It was almost instant and would have filled the Seven Barrows team with confidence considering it looked like it wasn’t there instantly last year at times, when beating John Constable at Sandown and Melon by a neck in the Champion.

Some people argue Buveur D’Air is just exploiting a weak division, and although this may be the case if he wins a third consecutive Champion Hurdle in March, he has to be compared with the likes of Istabraq and Hurricane Fly. A third Champion Hurdle looks highly possible based on last Saturday’s display but is not a betting prospect at around even-money.

Reasons for Samcro’s no show

I don’t want to make excuses for Samcro, but I do feel there are reasons that resulted him not giving his best running on Saturday, and I for one expect a much better horse in March. For example, he has looked his best when coming from mid-division, utilising his high cruising speed to get to the front with Jack Kennedy still motionless on top.

On Saturday however, he looked awkward in his attempt to make all and the track would not have suited either. He has stamina in abundance, shown by him winning a point-to-point over three miles at Monksgrange and being unbeaten over two-and-a-half miles.

And although he has lots of pace which is shown by his excellent record at two miles, I feel the fractions set by Jack Kennedy out in front suited Buveur D’Air far more than it suited Samcro, especially over this course and distance.

I for one expect Samcro to get a lot closer to Buveur D’Air in March. He will be allowed to cruise into the race from mid-division with the strong gallop associated with the Champion Hurdle, and the hill at the finish will also suit him far more.

Everyone always says you need to stay to win a Champion Hurdle, but I am not sure you need to stay to win a Fighting Fifth, and I would not be surprised to see Samcro and Buveur D’Air doing battle up the famous hill in March.

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