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 on day one of this years Festival.
Buveur D’Air, a six-year-old French-bred by Crillon, held off his stable mate My Tent Or Yours by four and a half lengths under Noel Fehily.
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].”
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