Jayne Sivills’ horse of a lifetime Lady Buttons will contest Saturday’s Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle after she was one of five horses declared for the Grade 1 event.
The nine-year-old’s opponents in the two-mile showpiece include the Nicky Henderson-trained Buveur D’Air, who bids to become the first horse in 30 years to win three editions of the race, and this year’s Champion Hurdle third Silver Streak. The field is completed by Cornerstone Lad and Nelson River.
Lady Buttons, who is trained by Phil Kirby, made a successful seasonal reappearance in Wetherby’s Listed mares’ hurdle earlier this month but the decision to target the Fighting Fifth wasn’t an easy one according to Sivills.
She said: “A lot of the theory was that we might never get a horse that could run in a race like this again. My husband, Keith, and Phil both favoured the Fighting Fifth to have a go and see what the outcome is.
“There’s five declared and we’re taking on the big boys! It’s a nice race but out first priority is that she runs well and comes home safe – anything else is a bonus. We know what we’re taking on, but anything can happen in a race and you’ve got to be in it to win it, haven’t you?”
There will be plenty of support on Saturday at the hostelry The Tiger Inn in Easington, which Jayne and Keith run with their two sons, Gary and Mark.
She said: “They’ll have the TVs on and there’s a lot of people who do follow her and don’t get to the races so go to the pub to watch her. I think there’ll be a lot of shouting and cheering, win or lose”
It was 12 years ago that Jayne and Keith took the plunge into ownership, purchasing a few shares in horses. From that moment on, the pair had caught the racing bug and decided to buy and breed their own stock. Keith, who had a penchant for bloodstock, purchased Lady Buttons’ dam, Lady Chapp, for £26,000 at the Goffs UK August Sale in 2009.
Lady Chapp was carrying to Beneficial at the time she went through the ring and the resultant foal was none other than Lady Buttons, who has proven to be a versatile performer over both hurdles and fences.
“We might never get a horse that could run in a race like this again”
Sent to Kirby, Lady Buttons has won 13 of her 29 starts. The mare has amassed such a following that members of the public regularly stop her owners at the racecourse.
“I was at Catterick last week as we had a runner in the bumper,” she said. “This gentleman came up to us and wished us good luck for the season with her.
“This was somebody I didn’t even know and that’s what happens wherever we go, people recognise us. It never ceases to amaze me how popular she is with everybody.”
The Sivillses have six horses in training and plenty of youngstock in the pipeline including Lady Buttons’ half-brother, named Lord Buttons. He is likely to start off in bumpers after Christmas.
Jayne said: “Phil bought Lady Buttons’ mum off us and bred two more out of her. One he’s syndicated and the other is Lord Buttons, who we bought back. We had another mare called Pickworth that we bred from – the first one we sold, the second was Fabrication, who ran in a bumper last week, and we’ve got a two-year-old as well.”
A return to breeding will beckon as and when Lady Buttons is retired from racing, but before then her season’s targets will be the Listed Yorkshire Silver Vase Mares’ Chase and the Grade 2 Yorkshire Mares’ Hurdle – both of which she was successful in last season.
The Grade 3 Red Rum Handicap Chase at Aintree at the Grand National meeting is also on the agenda, having chased home Moon Over Germany in this year’s renewal carrying top-weight of 11st 3lb.
The Fighting Fifth Hurdle celebrates its 50th anniversary on Saturday and for now Jayne Sivills’ attention is focussed on running her star mare in such an iconic race.
She added: “I keep pinching myself every time she runs. I thought Cheltenham was special but to be in a race like we are on Saturday will be even more so.”