Buveur D'Air retains his Champion Hurdle crown, but only just

Buveur D'Air retains his Champion Hurdle crown, but only just”

Buveur D'Air could now bid for a second win in next month's Aintree Hurdle. Heavy ground made the task more hard still but inch by inch he clawed back the deficit to cross the line a neck to the good.

With his stablemate Faugheen beaten and Paul Townend on Melon, no doubt screaming at Ruby Walsh for room on the inside as he cruised off the hill, Buveur d'Air was briefly pushed wide as his jockey Barry Geraghty sought to have Walsh, momentarily relegated from leading Festival jockey to doorman, bar Townend's entry.

It marks a seventh win in the race for Henderson, the Festival's most successful trainer.

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"I wasn't anxious about the ground for him, lots of other horses would have been suited by better ground".

"He did what he had to do and he did it well".

Mr Claisse, said it was the "first time" since 1982 the festival had opened with such "testing conditions".

Nicky Henderson's seven-year-old won this contest comfortably last season, and hasn't been really troubled in all four victories since his win a year ago.

"There was nowhere to hide", Geraghty said. The ground made it the ultimate test, there's nowhere to hide.

"He'll be better next year for sure, he's a seriously exciting horse".

"He scrapped it out today". It was a proper race.

"Buveur D'Air has been winning races by large margins all season and that was the first race he has been in". Istabraq was odds-on to record an unprecedented fourth success in 2001, when the meeting was abandoned due to an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease, and the owner cast his mind back two decades as he celebrated his latest Champion Hurdle victor.

Mullins continued: "Yorkhill is just not performing, it's a real head scratcher, sometimes horses take a year out". It was emotional for a lot of reasons and there were tears and joy and a wonderful occasion. "He definitely made two serious mistakes, if not three, and I thought he'd do well to finish in the first four, but he just kept picking up". Melon maybe went a neck up and I was glad to have Barry on my side. The runner-up came and I thought he was coming to beat me, but he's battle hardened. "We had many battles and some of them were more important than today!"

Footpad has already been quoted as a 7-2 shot for next year's Champion Chase.

Faugheen passed the post a well-beaten sixth and Mullins feels he now requires a step up in distance.

A limited amount of tickets are available for the next three days at the Festival.

Mullins' Benie Des Dieux ran out a shock victor of the Mares Hurdle, as odds-on favourite Apple's Jade could only finish a disappointing third.

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