Buveur D’Air enjoyed mixed fortunes last season and is currently a top priced 8/1 with Paddy Power and only third the ante post betting for the Champion Hurdle at the 2020 Cheltenham Festival as he bids to win it for a third time.
If successful he will become only the sixth horse to win the prestigious Grade 1 two mile contest following Hatton’s Grace (1949, 1950, 1951), Sir Ken (1952, 1953, 1954), Persian War (1968, 1969, 1970), See You Then (1985, 1986, 1987) and Istabraq (1998, 1999, 2000).
He will, however, have to re-write the history books as that quintet all landed straight successes in the feature race on the opening day of the four day spectacular at the home of jumps racing.
That is not going to be an easy task against younger up-and-coming rivals, including 2019 winner Espoir D’Allen, but I believe it would be folly to underestimate Buveur D’Air’s chances judged on now he rounded off last season with an impressive success in the Irish Champion Hurdle at the Punchestown Festival
Awesome at Punchestown
The Nicky Henderson trained gelding, who carries the famous green and gold hoops of leading Irish owner JP McManus, had questions to answer on his Irish debut having fallen in his Champion Hurdle hat-trick bid before finding Supasundae too strong in the the Grade 1 Aintree Hurdle.
However, with Davy Russell taking over in the saddle after Mark Walsh suffered an injury earlier in afternoon, the 2/1 joint-favourite silenced his doubters in style.
After travelling strongly throughout the two-mile contest Buveur D’Air cruised into the slipstream of Petit Mouchoir rounding the home turn under an ultra-confident looking Russell.
When then asked to go about his business and put the race to bed the response was immediate and the eight-year-old quickened clear to score easily by 2 1/2 lengths from last year’s winner Supasundae.
Buveur D’Air scored with more in hand than the winning margin suggests and put in an ultra-slick round of jumping – something he has been synonymous with throughout his career.
Henderson Looking Forward to Next Season
Speaking on Racing TV after the race, Henderson said: “It’s great to see him finish the year back to his absolute best.
He started the year in the Fighting Fifth and everyone thought he was going to be unbeatable, and so did I. Then we went and beat him with Verdana Blue of our own which was a bit of a shock, and then he went and fell in the Champion Hurdle, which knocked him sideways a bit.
“It was a good race in Liverpool when Supasundae beat us but we can look forward to next year. He’s the one that they all have to beat again.”
Winning rider Russell added: “I’ve been lucky to get the opportunity to ride for Nicky Henderson over the last couple of years and you don’t really realise the master he is until you ride for him.
“He was very confident in the horse today, so we all grew in confidence with that behind us.
“There are not many Buveur D’Airs around and I’m just really proud to have gotten the opportunity to ride him.”
Age Not Ideal, but Not a Big Concern
Come the Cheltenham Festival next March, Buveur D’Air will be a nine-year-old and that isn’t really a positive.
Only six horses aged nine have won the Champion Hurdle since it was first run in run in 1927
The most recent in modern times where Rooster Booster (2003) and the mighty Hurricane Fly who secured the prize for a second time in 2012 having previously triumphed in 2010.
It is worth noting though that Sea Pigeon won back-to-back runnings in 1980/82 aged nine and 10, and that for his age Buveur D’Air is lightly raced having run 17 times – winning on 13 occasions.
He has only once finished to make the frame – when falling in the 2019 Champion Hurdle – and amassed more than £1.1 million in career earnings.
So taking everything into account, I don’t think that age will prove a barrier to Buveur D’Air being a major force in next year’s Champion Hurdle.
In the Right Hands
As already touched upon by top jockey Davy Russell, Henderson is a master at getting horses spot on for the big day.
The Seven Barrows handler has won the Champion Hurdle a record seven times courtesy of See You Then (1985, 1986, 1987), Punjabi (2009), Binocular (2010) and Buveur D’Air (2017, 2018).
That has to be a plus as well as the fact that his owner McManus has seen his silks carried to victory in the race a record eight times.
Buveur D’Air could not be in better hands and will be trained to precision by Henderson for the Champion Hurdle.
The fact that the son of Crillon is also versatile as regards ground is another plus, so a bold bid to make Champion Hurdle history looks on the cards.
Come next March we could all be asking ourselves why a dual Champion Hurdle winner with such class was ever as big as 8/1 to win the race for a third time.