Dual champion hurdler Buveur D’Air’s racing career hangs in the balance after Nicky Henderson’s 9-year-old was beaten a short head in the Grade 1 Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle despite returning with a near foot long splinter of wood in his off-fore. The injury was sustained at the second last when Barry Geraghty’s mount made a significant mistake. It says much for his bravery that he battled all the way to the line.
Buveur D’Air’s stablemate Epatante was a fluent winner of the Gerry Feilden at Newbury and was cut to 25/1 with BetVictor for the 2020 Champion Hurdle. We will now more about her long-term prospects after her next start although she didn’t look to be in love with Cheltenham in the mares’ novices hurdle back in the spring.
They race at Plumpton this afternoon and the five previous winners of the 2m Novices’ Chase – a bonus race with the winner’s connections getting an additional £60k if they land a chase at the Cheltenham Festival in March – have been odds on favourite.
At the time of writing I don’t know what price Lisp (1.00) will be but I felt he showed more than enough at Wetherby on his chase debut, to suggest he could make his mark over the larger obstacles. Alan King’s 5-year-old scored over hurdles here as a juvenile and is entitled to come on for his first start over fences.
I’m looking forward to the hurdles debut of Adicci (2.00) and hope Jonjo O’Neill’s four-year-old can serve it up to likely market leader Neff in receipt of 7lbs from Gary Moore’s Fontwell scorer. The selection has run well when placed in all three Bumpers and, although he shapes as though he will get further in time, he gets the vote. Amanda Perrett’s hurdling newcomer Cogital once cost 280,000 gns as a yearling but was no great shakes on the flat. A market move would be worth noting.
The Tin Miner won the corresponding extended 3m 1f Chase 12 months ago for Chris Gordon from a 6lbs lower mark and the booking of Leighton Aspell suggests a bold repeat bid is expected. Cheque En Blanc and The Lion Dancer are respected but I have always thought that there was a race to be won with Tzar De L’Elfe over fences and Richard Rowe’s nine-year-old gets the each way vote.
The selection looked to be going best when he clouted four out here on his reappearance and he is entitled to strip fitter with that run under his belt.
Kilconny Bridge (3.30) cost connections £75,000 at Tattersalls horses-in-training sales having won her sole point in her native Ireland by 4 lengths. That was not the greatest point ever staged in Ireland but she is a half-sister to Fergal O’Brien’s winning hurdler Benny’s Bridge – rated 137 – who made a winning Bumper debut. The hope is that Anthony Honeyball’s mare can follow suit.
At Musselburgh Lady London (1.15) was beaten 5l in the corresponding novices’ handicap chase last season when runner up to a horse – Thomas Todd – who is now rated 15lbs higher. The mare is 6lbs higher herself this afternoon, but she was a winner in Perth back in September and she must go close if the meeting passes an 8.30am inspection.
No such problems at Wolverhampton where there is a good 12f handicap. There was little between Arabic Culture and Singing Sherriff (4.45) on C&D running back in April when the selection finished first past the post but the race went to the fast finishing Arabic Culture in the Stewards’ Room. Liam Keniry may have made his bid for glory a bit too soon on that occasion and the Ed Walker four-year-old is 1lb better off this afternoon.
Estrela Star (5.15) was forced to cover ground out wide when runner up over a slightly shorter trip here last time and he has a good low draw this evening in stall two. Tom Marquand takes over in the saddle and this lightly-raced three-year-old improved in his first-time blinkers last time. The hope is that the headgear works a second time.
Ishebayorgrey (6.15) was too keen to do himself justice here on Saturday night but I believe he has more to offer if he is more amenable to restraint tonight from just a 2lbs higher mark than when successful here at the beginning of November.
Innamorare (6.45) bounced back to her best at Dundalk last time for Gavin Cromwell and gets the vote in the valuable fillies’ handicap over the extended mile. The selection is only 5lbs higher today and she appeared to appreciate a return to an artificial surface.