There was initial shock at Newcastle Racecourse on Saturday when dual Fighting Fifth and Champion Hurdle winner Buveur D’Air was beaten in the big race at odds of 2/13, only for the crowd to discover the gelding finished lame.
While injury was the main cause of defeat for Nicky Henderson’s star hurdler, it did not detract from the improved performance shown by 16/1 shot Cornerstone Lad who took the £105,000 race for trainer Micky Hammond and jockey Henry Brooke.
First Grade 1 Success for Cornerstone
At long odds-on and in going for a third Fighting Fifth, all the talk pre-race was naturally about Buveur D’Air and more specifically about how he could take total control of the Champion Hurdle market, victory in this particular race seemingly being a forgone conclusion. The way events unfolded however, that was not to be the case.
With Evan Williams’ Silver Streak having drifted out to 7/1 along with Philip Kirby’s popular mare Lady Buttons, defeat looked out of the question for the 2/13 favourite as the money poured in to change his price from an opening quote of 4/1.
As 16/1 outsider Cornerstone Lad cut out the running, jockey Barry Geraghty seemed happy to sit in behind with the pair a good eight lengths down with three to jump.
Buveur D’Air was just about getting the hang of things when he hit the second from home and was hard ridden thereafter, and while there was a response from him, he began to make very heavy weather up the hill of a finish many still thought he’d see out no problem for another valuable victory.
Having only just failed to pass Henry Brooke’s mount, losing by just a short-head on the line, it quickly became apparent that Buveur D’Air was lame as he was dismounted by Geraghty upon pulling up.
Not only was he lame in fact, clearly visible was a huge splinter from one of the hurdles sticking out of Buveur D’Air’s hoof as it became all too apparent why he did not show his very best form.
This was to take nothing away from the winner of course, who with natural improvement simply moved on from his fine handicap hurdle win at Wetherby two weeks previously to record a first, and some may predict only, Grade One success.
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Buveur D’Air Out for the Season
Following his mishap, Nicky Henderson has reported that Buveur D’Air is comfortable after surgery but that he is now out for the season. The piece of wood lodged in the lower section of his off-fore during the race has been removed by vets at Donnington Grove Vetenary Surgery in Newbury, along with a significant part of the hoof itself.
Essentially, a large chunk of the gelding’s hoof has had to be removed leaving a gaping hole but Henderson has reported the horse to be recovering already, if understandably sore.
His absence from the Champion Hurdle market now leaves Willie Mullins pair Saldier and Klassical Dream fighting it out for favouritism at around the 4/1 mark, while Pentland Hills (8/1) and Sunday’s impressive Fairyhouse winner Honeysuckle (10/1) are not far behind.
Fighting Fifth winner Cornerstone Lad is introduced into the betting at 33/1 with bookmakers understandably not overly impressed despite this success, as it appears that he would not have beaten Buveur D’Air were it not for the unfortunate injury. He is only a five-year-old however, and one who could improve plenty more yet.