The Champion Hurdle picture changed as Buveur D’air’s unbeaten run of eleven was ended by stablemate Verdana Blue, while Samcro’s light faded further still.

Buveur D’air is downed in Christmas Hurdle

Buveur D’air was surprisingly beaten by stablemate Verdana Blue in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton.

The way the Champion Hurdler faded close home, one would have to question if he was 100% fit and not backed off slightly in preparation during the preceding weeks. I’m not saying he wasn’t fit. He was and was expected to win, but March is his day and the mare might have been a little fitter.

In any case, the winner is proving top class and was always better than the bare form of her Greatwood Hurdle fourth as that race didn’t work out for her. To give her seven pounds was still an excellent performance from Buveur D’air and this rock solid warrior will still be hard to beat at Cheltenham.

It must also be said that the form of his Fighting Fifth win from Samcro now looks less impressive after the latter again failed to deliver in the Ryanair Hurdle at Leopardstown.

Samcro well beaten in Ryanair Hurdle as Sharja wins with authority

Despite some lacklustre performances this season, much was still expected of Gigginstown star Samcro as he was sent off a well backed 6/4 favourite for the Grade 1 showpiece.

Travelling well, Samcro took it up between the last two flights but found little and faded into fifth with many shrewd judges suggesting something was amiss. That may well be the case, but I’m personally not so sure he is much better than we have seen as his novice form hasn’t proved the strongest.

I would also question if Samcro will be any better over further or over fences. Many believe that just because a horse is big that they will be better over fences. Of course size is a huge factor, but it doesn’t always work out that way. For me the jury is still out on this fellow. He is still a good horse, but the bubble has now been well and truly burst. As he is now also likely out of the Champion Hurdle picture, I would encourage connections to switch Apples Jade back to two miles for the Champion. I could see her winning it. She certainly has a better chance than Samcro ever did.

The Ryanair was of course won by another Mullins improver in Sharja. Held up travelling like a dream, he swept to the front before the last flight and won snugly. It was certainly an impressive performance from this Galway Hurdle and Morgiana winner.

Could he win a Champion Hurdle? Stranger things have happened.


Defending champion Buveur D’Air is still the most likely candidate for Champion Hurdle honours. Sharja and the yet to be confirmed Apples Jade are emerging as his most serious challengers with the highly touted Samcro likely to miss the race.