Star mares will demand more from Buveur D’Air
Nicky Henderson admits that the prospect of taking on Apple’s Jade and Laurina in next month’s Champion Hurdle will ensure Buveur D’Air must be better than last year if he is to defend his crown
The JP McManus-owned Buveur D’Air will bid to become just the sixth horse in history to win three Champion Hurdle crowns on March 12.
Last year he fended off Melon up the famous hill but Henderson does not believe a repeat performance will suffice, with star mares Apple’s Jade and Laurina likely to take him on.
Buveur D’Air was most impressive in dismissing Samcro to win the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle on his seasonal bow but he was then turned over by stablemate Verdana Blue in the Christmas Hurdle.
He has won the Contenders’ Hurdle at Sandown since, and Henderson feels the mare got a perfect run through to beat him at Kempton.
He’s the 7/4 favourite with Betfred for a Champion Hurdle hat-trick and his trainer would not trade places with anyone.
“I still think he is the one to beat if all goes well between now and then,” said Henderson. “At least he has had that run at Sandown, as he does take an awful lot of work.
“Barry (Geraghty) said he felt fantastic at Newcastle (in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle).
“Two miles on fast ground round Kempton (Christmas Hurdle), we got caught out a little bit and Nico (de Boinville) got a lovely run round in his slipstream and she (Verdana Blue, stablemate and winner) does have a serious turn of foot.”
Apple’s Jade is 7/4 to land the Champion Hurdle following her impressive display in the Irish version at Leopardstown while Gordon Elliott’s star could be joined by the Willie Mullins-trained Laurina.
Henderson is wary of both and feels they will ask a big question of Buveur D’Air.
“I do think he has to pull out more. He has to be better than last year, because I think it is a better race than last year,” he added.
“The opposition appears to be in Ireland. Apple’s Jade looked very good [in the Irish Champion Hurdle) and it will be interesting to see Laurina, how she runs this week (at Punchestown on Wednesday).”
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