Buveur D'Air gives Henderson his sixth Champion Hurdle

Filed on 14 Mar 2017 @ 18:55

McManus registers his 50th Festival winner

Nicky Henderson's Festival total rose to 57 after 5/1 chance Buveur D'Air gave him a sixth Stan James Champion Hurdle success, making him the winning-most trainer ever in the hurdling championship.

Buveur D'Air, a six-year-old French-bred by Crillon, was always prominent and cruised into contention in the home straight, travelling ominously well. The six-year-old son of Crillon winged the final flight and stayed on dourly up the hill. The winner's stable-companion My Tent Or Yours (16/1) also owned by McManus, was four and a half-lengths behind in second and was finishing in the runner-up position in the Grade One event for the third time. Henry de Bromhead's Petit Mouchoir was a further three lengths back in third.

Both the first and second home are owned by J P McManus, who was also winning his sixth Stan James Champion Hurdle. It was McManus' 50th Festival triumph in all.

Henderson said: "The horse Buveur D'Air beat very easily first time out at Haydock over fences was second to Altior in the Arkle [Cloudy Dream] and I thought 'blimey, that's good chasing form.' I wondered had I got it wrong [in sending him back over hurdles].

"We felt it was the right thing to do and it has worked on the day. Noel has given him a beautiful ride. Well done him.

"You feel sorry for My Tent Or Yours. It's wonderful - we have won the Champion Hurdle - but that is now three Champion Hurdles he has been second in as well as a Supreme Novices' Hurdle. What else can you say about a horse who has done that again and again? He has been sensational. But the youngster has got home, and that is great.

"I thought Brain Power [Henderson's third runner in the race] was going very well two out but he did not get home. I feel sorry for Michael Buckley (owner)."

McManus said: "Nicky insisted Buveur D'Air went back to hurdling - in the end I let him have his way. It was great to see My Tent Or Yours finishing second for a fourth time here. I don't know which one Barry Geraghty [who misses The Festival through injury] would have chosen, but I wouldn't have been surprised if it had been Buveur D'Air."

Fehily was winning his second Stan James Champion Hurdle, having taken the race in 2012 on the Paul Nicholls-trained Rock On Ruby.

He said: "It doesn't matter to me whether it was a vintage Champion Hurdle or not. Buveur D'Air is a class animal and I won a Grade One at Aintree on him last year. He has been a very good horse to me and I love him to bits.

"I thought early on that maybe he was doing a little bit too much. I thought I had taken too long to get him switched off, but once I got to the top of the hill I was very happy. He travelled great down the hill. That was the one part of the race I was worried about - whether or not he would have the pace.

"It is a privilege to ride in these colours and I am delighted to ride a winner for him [J P McManus].

"You certainly appreciate winning the Stan James Champion Hurdle more the second time round."

The winner started this season over fences and was successful in two novice chase contests at Haydock and Wetherby. However, Henderson was keen to revert back to timber following those runs with a view to having a tilt at the Stan James Champion Hurdle. Explaining the decision, the Seven Barrows maestro said: "He was very good at chasing and on his debut over fences, he beat the horse [Cloudy Dream], who was second to Altior in the Arkle earlier on today so there was nothing wrong with his novice chase form. Admittedly, he wasn't very impressive on his second chase start at Warwick but I knew we were going down the wrong road and he needed to revert back to hurdles as we had unfinished business.

"I lost his novice chase season by going back hurdling and if I had got that wrong, it would have looked a very silly decision but the great thing about J P McManus and his team is they are a great team. There is a pretty strong board behind the company with J P as the chairman and they are just great to train for. When I said hurdling was what I wanted to do, they were totally behind it and that was great and ever since then, that has been the plan. It was soft enough for him today but it couldn't have been that soft as My Tent Or Yours also handled it."

When asked where next for the winner, Henderson suggested the gelding would remain over hurdles and potentially head for the Randox Health Grand National meeting in April. He commented: "It would be difficult not to stay over hurdles with him now. He is a novice chaser for the rest of this season so he could go to Aintree if he wanted to go chasing but I don't think a champion hurdler has ever done that. We like doing extraordinary things but I think that would be a bit bizarre but I don't really know where we go with him now. That ground today was as good as he will ever want it but he also stays so a race over two and a half-miles with cut in the ground would be great. The two and a half-mile race at Aintree [Betway Aintree Hurdle] could suit him over that trip."

Reflecting on his other two runners in the race, Henderson remarked: "My Tent Or Yours, you have to feel sorry for him but he has run at his fourth Festival, second in three Champion Hurdle's. It's been a remarkable story and he has just been a legend and he did so deserve to win one so you have to sympathise with him. I also thought Brain Power was going well two out as well but didn't last home."

Also reflecting on Altior's six length success in the Arkle, Henderson said: "Some will say he wasn't quite as flashy as predicted today. He took his time to get there today, they went a good gallop and he did look a little bit flat but by the time he got to the finishing line he was going away."

Filed on 14 Mar 2017 @ 18:55