Buveur D’Air at the double in Champion
Buveur D’Air held off a determined challenge from Willie Mullins’ Melon to win his second Unibet Champion Hurdle under Barry Geraghty.
Approaching the third-last of a Champion Hurdle run at a blistering gallop, thanks to the insertion of stablemate Charli Parcs as pacemaker for the 4-6 favourite, Ruby Walsh shifted to his right on Faugheen, creating room for stablemate Melon on their inside. But Barry Geraghty was having none of it and in trying to hold his line on Buveur D’Air the pair made contact.
As Faugheen dropped back Melon still slipped through and battle was engaged from over the last two flights between the Champion Hurdle’s two dominant powerhouses of Henderson and Mullins.
It was nip and tuck all the way to the line but it Buveur D’Air who just pulled out more, winning the contest by a neck to deliver a seventh Champion Hurdle to the race’s most successful trainer.
“This hasn’t been easy and yesterday was as bad as it gets,” said Henderson. “The last weeks of preparation aren’t a lot of fun. You know there’s something waiting round the corner to bite you and everybody has had it and a lot of public horses are missing.
“Today they went a really good gallop and when those two picked it up from two out they kicked in again. I bet it was a course record for heavy ground.
“Buveur D’Air has been winning races by huge distances all winter. It’s the first time he’s had a race all season. That was worrying me.
“The ground was never a worry. Barry said he didn’t blow up. I was even going to say he might come on for the run, but he had a good blow because he hasn’t had to knuckle down before.”
There have been five triple winners of the Champion Hurdle and Henderson trained one of them in See You Then in 1985, 1986 and 1987.
“It’s a special race and the first big race we ever won was the Champion Hurdle in the See You Then days,” said Henderson. “God willing we’ll be trying again next year. If we’re lucky and he gets back here next year, there will be more young contenders, but we’ll aim for it.
“Buveur D’Air is a young horse who’s done everything right. Even if they thought it was a penalty kick and he got a battle, he did what he had to do and did it well.”