Weekend review: Buveur d’Air is unbeatable on flat tracks but Cheltenham ain’t level

A belting weekend of jumps action on both sides of the Irish Sea but what does it all really mean? Timeform think they have the answers ...

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As has become the norm with the Fighting Fifth, there was a dearth of numbers, but this time there was also a depth of quality in what was easily the best recent renewal of the race. In dismissing the pick of the young pretenders in scintillating fashion, Buveur d’Air ensured it lived up to its billing and then some.

It took his winning sequence to 11, as impressive a display as any mustered by a hurdler at the top level this century, with a pre-season wind operation presumably at the heart of a scarcely believable rise on his already top-notch standards first time back.

But …

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As at Down Royal, for the final half a mile of the race you could imagine a thought bubble coming from Samcro’s head saying ‘Where’s the hill?’

With connections positive about sticking to two miles, now looks the time to back him for the Champion Hurdle next March, with 8/1 looking an each-way bet to nothing for a horse that will be primed to the second for that March showdown.

In the meantime, Buveur d’Air will keep mopping up every race he runs in, which will probably not include Samcro, as Gordon Elliott has suggested that he will avoid the Champion Hurdler until March.

Though his trainer suggested a miracle will be needed to beat Buveur d’Air there, it might just be that Cleeve Hill and a stiffer test of stamina, gives him the platform to live up to the hype.

Colin Tizzard loves Newbury again …

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Colin Tizzard’s previous 13 runners at the track had all lost, and despite saddling the one-two in the Ladbrokes Trophy, only 42 per cent of the horses he has run there this season have run to form (RTF). Mind you, Tizzard won’t mind, as between them Sizing Tennessee and Elegant Escape (along with the fifth home West Approach) picked up over £200k.

It’s the second time in three years that Tizzard has won the race, following Native River’s 2016 success, and while Sizing Tennessee and Elegant Escape are unlikely to go on to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup, the winner certainly showed improved form, earning a 9lb rise on Timeform’s ratings.

For those looking to target the trainer’s horses at specific venues, Timeform’s RTF metrics – a better gauge for how horses perform rather than bare win and place strike-rates – show that, over the last five seasons, over 90 per cent of Tizzard’s Punchestown runners ran to form.

The yard’s next highest figures come from Ayr (75 per cent), and Newcastle and Southwell (66.67 per cent each). Most interestingly, he hasn’t had a winner from 10 runners at Ayr in that period, so, much like Sizing Tennessee, who broke a winless run at Newbury.

Tizzard’s next runner at the Scottish venue is worth taking very seriously.

Apple’s Jade & horses for courses

At Timeform, we sometimes try to debunk the casual clichés that abound in horseracing. Sometimes it’s hard, sometimes it’s easy, sometimes it’s impossible.

But it’s very hard to argue that some courses just seem to suit certain horses ideally, whether that’s because of the track’s topology, locality or one of a handful of other reasons.

Though she acts everywhere, Fairyhouse has become the happiest of hunting grounds for Apple’s Jade, who is now three out of three at the Co. Meath venue.

And you didn’t need to be Stephen Hawking to know that Apple’s Jade would be spot-on for Sunday’s Hatton’s Grace Hurdle for two reasons:

1. She’d run a month earlier
2. She was going for a third straight win in the race

And she put up arguably her best performance yet. Her 20-length margin of victory was the biggest in the 25-year history of this contest  and on the bare Timeform ratings, was a career-best effort, some 4 lb better than her win 12 months earlier.

Backed up by a strong timefigure, it suggests that she is over whatever held her back at the Cheltenham and Punchestown festivals last spring. Though connections have suggested she’ll take on Supasundae again in the Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown, it might be worth giving that race a miss.

While connections blamed subsequent under-par performances on her constantly coming into season last year, it’s possible that her hard-fought win on testing ground took more out of her than originally thought. Mind you, her trainer seems to know what he’s doing.

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Back for the future …

Ms Parfois may have backed out of it late on in the Ladbrokes Trophy, but she shaped very well for a long way before her lack of a recent run appeared to find her out, and is well worth adding to your My Timeform Tracker.

Her trainer mentioned the Welsh National on December 27, as a target for this season following her second at the Cheltenham Festival. She’s worth backing for the Chepstow slog at 14/1, now that she’s got a run under her belt.

*Prices correct at time of publishing 

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