Declan Rix

After a brilliant weekend of racing in Britain and Ireland, Declan Rix assesses the victories of Buveur D'Air in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle and Sizing Tennessee's Ladbrokes Trophy success at Newbury.

  • Sunday 02 December
  • Blog
Up to £40 in bonus funds


One of the most anticipated renewals of the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle on Saturday was turned into a procession by the dual Champion Hurdler Buveur D’Air, as Nicky Henderson’s inmate strode eight lengths clear of the well-backed favourite Samcro.

In the end, it was more a case of a brief tussle than a fight, as Buveur D’Air stamped his class on a field containing last season’s winners of the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle and the Supreme Novices' Hurdle (Summerville Boy).

Of course, the up-and-coming Samcro was obviously the winner’s main danger, but while he hit the scales lighter than the JP McManus-owned gelding, and had a size and reach advantage, Buveur D’Air’s lightening quick hurdling jab and turn of foot knockout power left the runner-up on the canvas unresponsive. It was a sensational return to the fray, especially when you consider the son of Crillon barely made weight.

While it was a surprise to see Samcro go off favourite with what looked to be an accurate 9lb gulf in official ratings, in some ways we shouldn’t be taken aback by the result. Pre-race, there now looks to have been too much emphasis on the potential fitness levels of Buveur D’Air – a fair stance to take when considering the winner’s stuffy frame, and there was also the negative vibes from Nicky Henderson. While I’m sure Buveur D’Air will improve, he was clearly fit enough do himself justice; an understatement now.

The wind operation Buveur D’Air had during the summer maybe allowed Nicky Henderson to get his outstanding hurdler fitter than he feared, but it’s also potentially improved a horse that will now look to line up for a third Champion Hurdle win in-a-row come March. That is an exciting prospect, both from a performance and historic standpoint.

Where now with Samcro, however? Given how strong he was in the market, which eventually saw him go off 6/5 favourite, this must go down as a disappointing run. I don’t think he improved on his comeback effort at Down Royal, and visually, he was bitterly disappointing hitting the line. There were reports post-race that he lost a hind shoe, and when you couple this with him having to make his own running off what were surely slower than ideal fractions, I do wonder did he perform to his best?

I don’t think he did, and maybe a combination of all the above factors contributed to a slightly below par run. Regardless however, even if Samcro improved 5lb form his Down Royal effort, it still wouldn’t have been good enough to beat a champion like Buveur D’Air on Saturday.

The dual Champion Hurdler is only a year older than Samcro, and while his stuffy nature of carrying condition will always be a worry with regards getting him fit, this kind of body type probably lends itself to longevity. With this being the case, the prospect of him joining three-time Champion Hurdle winners Hatton's Grace, Sir Ken, Persian War, See You Then and Istabraq now looks a strong possibility, an even-money chance in fact, but who’s to say he couldn’t win four?


At this moment in time, I’m not quite sure what to make of Sizing Tennessee’s brilliant-looking 10-length victory in the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury on Saturday. In black and white, it looks an unbelievable performance from the Colin Tizzard-trained inmate, who essentially galloped and jumped his rivals into submission, winning in a good time.

Plenty about the victory says it was sensational, not least his own visuals, but can a ten-year-old really win one of the most competitive handicaps of the season like that without it being too good to be true? I’m leaning towards it being a bit of a freak victory at the moment, not just because of the winner’s age, but also because so many horses looked to perform below their best.

It maybe looks like one horse on the day has turned up in great form, ran his race and stayed the distance well. I’ve watched the replay a few times now and I can’t get away from the fact so many horses were beaten early down the back straight. At this juncture of the race, only two looked to be travelling with purpose, Dingo Dollar and Sizing Tennessee. You could add Ms Parfois to this duo, but Saturday’s ground was surely far quicker than ideal for the big mare.

As the race comes into the closing stages, the strong-travelling and sound jumping Dingo Dollar appears to be coming to the end of his tether, and shapes like a non-stayer, before my pre-race fancy Elegant Escape plugs on for second, with plenty momentum stopping mistakes on the way. It all lends me to believe Sizing Tennessee was the only horse to turn up in top order, jump well and stay the trip.

Sizing Tennessee wins the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury
What did you make of Sizing Tennessee's win in the Ladbrokes Trophy?

Winning a race like the Ladbrokes Trophy by 10 lengths means the handicapper has no choice but to significantly raise the winner, seeing him enter the top staying chase division. Time will tell, but I just can’t see him competing with the likes of Native River, Might Bite, Road To Respect, Bristol De Mai and Presenting Percy on this evidence.

We shall see how it plays out, but either way, it was a great day for the Tizzards who saddled the race one-two,, winning for Ann & Alan Potts Limited.


Declan Rix
Sign up to bet365. Click to View Bonus Code Details
Up to £30 in free bets
Get £20 in free bets
£20 Risk Free First Bet
Up to £30 in free bets
Up to £30 in free bets
Up to £40 in Bonus funds
100% Bonus up to £100
£20 Free Exchange Bet
Get a £10 risk-free first bet

Existing User?

Forgot your password?

New User?

Sign up using our simple one-page form and you'll be able to access free video form, tips and exclusive content straight away.