Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport Racing Cheltenham

Cheltenham 2017: Henderson and McManus celebrate the joy of six

By Nick Robson

Already the most successful trainer at the Cheltenham Festival, Nicky Henderson has now won more Champion Hurdles than anyone else after Buveur D'Air beat stablemate My Tent Or Yours to give him a sixth win in the hurdling crown.

Having begun the season as a novice chaser, Buveur D'Air did not exactly have the ideal preparation after just a canter round against inferior opposition in the Contenders Hurdle at Sandown.

However, Henderson was adamant that he should be in the Champion Hurdle and yet again was proved right.

With the last two winners of the race sidelined by injury, the two-mile showpiece had an open look to it with owner JP McManus having three live hopes as Yanworth was sent off favourite.

Alan King's chestnut never looked like playing a part in the finish, though, and for a long way Henderson's other runner, Brain Power, looked like taking a hand until failing to come up the hill.

Sent off 5-1 under Noel Fehily, in the absence of McManus' injured retained rider Barry Geraghty, the six-year-old Buveur D'Air travelled powerfully and after one or two minor errors was produced with an ominous challenge jumping the second flight from the finish.

Having claimed the front-running Petit Mouchoir before the last, Henderson's charge was in front soon enough, but found plenty under pressure to prevail by four and a half lengths.

Yet despite the impressive performance, Henderson admitted his first thought was for the runner-up, who has now been second four times at the Cheltenham Festival.

"You feel sorry for My Tent Or Yours. It's wonderful we've won the Champion Hurdle but that's three Champion Hurdles he's been second in. What else can you say about him? He's just sensational, but the young horse has done it," said the Seven Barrows handler.

"I had my doubts whether we'd done the right thing going back over hurdles after seeing Cloudy Dream run so well in the Arkle, given we beat him easily at Haydock.

"There wasn't a particular moment when I thought we should go back to hurdles but he'd only run four times, I just felt he had unfinished business.

"I think he could still go back chasing one day."

Asked what might be next this season, Henderson said: "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 bizarre. I don't really know where we go with him now.

"The two-and-a-half-mile race at Aintree (Aintree Hurdle) could suit him.

"It's great to break the record, but they are there to be broken I've always said.

"It's the people at Seven Barrows and all the owners I'm really happy for, they make it fun, which is what it should be.

"This place is all about winners and all you can really ask for is one, but I'm lucky to have a huge team of nice horses.

"It was the right decision to go back hurdling, but part of me feels all I've done is make My Tent come second again!"

McManus was also winning the race for a sixth time after Istabraq's hat-trick, Binocular and Jezki. It was also his 50th winner at the Festival.

"It doesn't get much better than that, the first two in the Champion Hurdle," he said.

"I can't remember exactly what Nicky said but he wanted to go back hurdling before any of the doubts about Faugheen and Annie Power. I just let him get on with it, he knows best.

"I'm delighted with My Tent too, to finish second at four Festivals is a great training performance.

"Yanworth got very warm before the race and he probably lost his race there."

Fehily was winning the race for a second time after Rock On Ruby in 2012 and was absolutely faultless in the saddle.

"Early on I felt I was doing too much and I thought it took me a while to get him switched off," said Fehily.

"He's just a very good horse. It's just fantastic. It was a great performance, it doesn't matter to me that people are saying it wasn't a vintage race.

"You certainly appreciate it more second time around."

Irish Champion Hurdle winner Petit Mouchoir confirmed his form with Footpad, who finished fourth, and trainer Henry de Bromhead said: "I'm delighted with him, he's run a fine race and I'd say he's run to exactly the same mark as his Irish Champion win.

"We tried to put the others under pressure. He might run again this season but we'll get this out of the way before making plans for next season (whether to go chasing or not)."

The novice Moon Racer, of whom there had been so much chat about which race he would run in, was pulled up by Tom Scudamore after a making a bad mistake just after halfway but was reported to be none the worse.

Belfast Telegraph

How to Complain

If you have a complaint about the editorial content of the Belfast Telegraph or Sunday Life then contact the Editor here. If you are not satisfied with the response provided then you can contact the Independent Press Standards Organisation here

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph