THE REAL BUVEUR D'AIR SHOWED UP AT SANDOWN
Last weekend was an important one and thankfully it went well.
It’s always a pleasure to ride BUVEUR D’AIR, but it was important for him to get back on track in the 888Sport Contenders Hurdle at Sandown on Saturday and he duly did. While it was a bit of a messy race, his performance was just what we were hoping for.
After he had made that bad mistake at Kempton, his jumping was always going to be a focus point in the absence of strong opposition, so it was great that he jumped so well. He was more fluent and measured that he had been at Kempton. He was rapid over them.
That’s the real Buveur D’Air. For whatever reason, I just don’t think he was himself when he was beaten at Kempton, so it was great to see him bounce back so quickly.
Using that race as a prep race has worked in each of the last two years and I’m sure Nicky will be very happy where he has him right now. We’ll be counting down the days to the Champion Hurdle.
On that subject, I have to say I was impressed with Apple’s Jade at Leopardstown on Saturday. Plenty of people, myself included, thought she would be vulnerable back over two miles on better ground, but she proved that to be very wrong and produced a great performance.
What really caught my eye was how slick her jumping was down the back. She now looks to be the biggest rival for Buveur D’Air and it is a serious race in prospect.
Later on that card at Sandown, I rode the Philip Hobbs-trained DEFI DU SEUIL to win the Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase. The ground was hard work and it was a good experience for him to have to jump out of it.
There was never likely to be much between him and Lostintranslation at the revised weights based on their previous meeting and there really wasn’t. I rode Defi a bit quieter than I had at Cheltenham and that seemed to be a help to him.
His jumping has got better as the season has gone on and he got into more of a measured rhythm at Sandown rather than exuberantly letting fly as he had at times earlier in the season.
It was an experience that will really stand to him going forward and all being well he will go to the Cheltenham Festival now with a solid chance.
I didn’t have as much good fortune over at Leopardstown for the second day of the Dublin Racing Festival on Sunday, but I thought the Joseph O’Brien-trained GARDENS OF BABYLON shaped quite nicely in the Tattersalls Ireland Spring Juvenile Hurdle.
The winner was impressive, but Gardens Of Babylon reversed form with Surin on revised terms and ran a solid race. It was a step up in class for him and I got the impression he was learning as he went. He should be all the better for it and he should do better in time.
I was a little bit disappointed with TRIPLICATE in the Chanelle Pharma Novice Hurdle. We rode him a bit differently than in his previous start, but he wasn’t any the better for it. He might just have found his level.
I thought it was a great meeting at Leopardstown all told. The racing was excellent, the atmosphere was great and it felt like a big occasion. They just got unlucky with the ground being as quick as it was.
I wouldn’t like to be critical of them, as they faced what have been really exceptional weather circumstances. I can’t ever remember a winter like this and I doubt we’ll face one like it for a long time.
The downer of the weekend was the loss of Special Tiara. I only rode him a couple of times, but he gave me some thrill when winning the Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton back in 2014. He was absolutely brilliant that day.
He wasn’t the biggest horse in the world, but by God he had some scope and heart! You could just ask him question after question and he’d keep answering you without a hint of a doubt. He was an absolute gem of a horse for Henry and Sally.
It was really sad to see him go like that. You don’t often come across the likes of him.