Another packed weekend of National Hunt racing saw Nicky Henderson and especially Buveur D’Air emerge as the big winners.
Before Saturday, while the Henderson yard had not been short of winners their top grade horses had seemed to lack sparkle and look a gallop or two short.
With just two wins, both by Verdana Blue, from 17 runners in Class One races in October and November there were understandable doubts going into last weekend about how some of the returning stable stars would fare, but first Santini and then Buveur D’Air doubled that tally supported a level down by wins for Style De Vole and Champ.
It is no secret that virtually none of the Henderson top guns have seem much, if any, grass work this season due to the quick ground so it was interesting that three of those four winners mentioned, Style De Vole, Santini and Buveur D’Air had all taken the opportunity of working at Newbury just over a week before at the Ladbrokes Festival gallops morning.
The star was undoubtedly Buveur D’Air who, unlike 12 months previously found the Fighting Fifth anything but a soft return to the extent that he wasn’t even sent off favourite.
His performance in victory looked superior to anything he achieved last season and all of a sudden a third Unibet Champion Hurdle looks at his mercy.
Samcro’s mask of invincibility has now well and truly slipped and even if tactically being forced to make his own running didn’t suit it reinforced the view that he may struggle to regain the winning thread.
Gordon Elliott’s frankness was commendable afterwards and it may be Sunday’s Hatton’s Grace winner Apple’s Jade who emerges as the yard’s premier hurdler, although her Festival target is likely to be unclear for quite a while.
The news that Gerry Feilden winner Global Citizen would take on Buveur D’Air over Christmas at Kempton was very welcome.
He was electric over his hurdles at Newbury and then showed great tenacity when tackled up the run in. Already an impressive scorer at the track, the sight of Global Citizen and Buveur D’Air attacking their hurdles at Kempton is a prospect to savour.
Another Henderson horse to appear at the gallops morning was Altior,who worked alone and was given quite a solid hit out ahead of his return in Saturday’s Betfair Tingle Creek.
During the close season this looked to be the most eagerly anticipated clash between Altior and Footpad but given the latter’s capsize last time it may be the bigger double green threat lies in the shape of Sceaux Royal who was impressive on his return at Cheltenham in the Shloer Chase.
Slick jumping also underpins his talents but his connections will be warily eying the skies with a fair amount of rain forecast during the week.
Add in Saint Calvados plus a strong supporting card at Aintree that includes the Becher Chase and it looks another stellar weekend.
Closer to hand the selections for Tuesday start with:
Completely left his previous form behind when scoring at a big price at Taunton last time. It would be easy to dismiss that as a fluke but he scored with a bit in hand and several of those behind have since run creditably.
Has been more consistent since cheekpieces have been applied and Darragh Keenan’s allowance will come in handy, especially as she has run second for him in the past.
The second leg of the Scott Norfolk raiding party, he should be better for his reappearance at Wincanton - form franked by the first two home subsequently winning. Any rain won’t go amiss.
An improver who should be able to boss this race from the front. Battled back well last time, suggesting the step up to 10f will suit.