Though the Grade One Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase will take place on the same card, there’s no doubting who will be the star attraction. Dual Champion Hurdler Buveur D’Air returns looking for a third successive 888Sport Contenders Hurdle as he gears up for Cheltenham in six weeks’ time.
However, for the first time since his aborted novice chasing career, Buveur D’Air lines up off the back of defeat, something not tasted since he finished third in the 2016 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. If anything, the beating he received over Christmas by stablemate Verdana Blue may only have strengthened him as an athlete. He’d barely seen a horse when racking up 11 straight victories over obstacles. Now he knows that equine talent exists to oppose him, he may be even more formidable and Nicky Henderson has been anxious to run him here in preparation.
At the very least, Buveur D’Air will have to show up in good fettle to ensure he retains his title. Heading the field attempting to depose him is the Colin Tizzard trained Vision Des Flos, set to be partnered by the in-form Harry Cobden. He has been ultra-consistent in top company so far this campaign and though he finished 21 lengths behind the red hot favourite at Newcastle in December, he has been granted seven weeks off to revitalise his challenge.
Rayvin Black is the senior citizen of this year’s contest and has been runner-up twice in the race in the past. He posted his best effort for a long time when third to If The Cap Fits in an Ascot Grade Two in November and is the likely pace angle. He is unlikely to be able to live with these, but if granted a generous lead, he is certain to run well for a long way.
Meanwhile, Team Skelton are represented by the mare Roksana. This will be her first start over the minimum trip of two miles though she has been beaten just twice to date. Three facile victories, after a debut defeat, were followed by an excellent second behind Santini at Aintree at the end of last season. It will be her first start for ten months, but if she takes to the test, she looks set to give a good account.
The final horse, making up the field of five, is Evan Williams’ De Dollar Man. This will be his first start over hurdles for two years, having been chasing in the interim. He has some decent form in the book from three starts over timber and though he is definitely up against it with this calibre of opposition, he has the ability to collect more than just the prize money for turning up.
A compact field with no shortage of quality, it will be a race to please spectators. However, there’s no doubt who will be carrying the hopes of many and if he puts his best feet forward, Buveur D’Air will be a joy to behold come race time.
Our guest article is written by Joe Napier, a freelance writer and blogger. Read more by Joe on his blog, https://joeblogsracing.wordpress.com/.