Cheltenham 2017: Buveur D’Air wins Champion Hurdle

Cheltenham Festival on the BBC
Dates: 14-17 March Venue: Cheltenham
Coverage: Commentary on BBC Radio 5 live & BBC Radio 5 live sports extra, live text coverage on the BBC Sport website and app (full coverage details)

Second favourite Buveur D’Air, ridden by Noel Fehily, stormed to victory in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham.

The Nicky Henderson-trained six-year-old, a 5-1 shot, came home ahead of My Tent Or Yours (16-1) and Petit Mouchoir (6-1).

It was Fehily’s second Champion Hurdle victory, and owner JP McManus’ 50th winner at Cheltenham.

Yanworth – the 9-4 favourite – never settled and placed seventh.

Henderson’s sixth winner makes him the most successful trainer in the history of the race, following successes with See You Then (1985, 1986, 1987), Punjabi (2009) and Binocular (2010).

“It’s fantastic. To win one was great, to win two is special,” said Fehily, whose first Champion Hurdle win came on Rock On Ruby in 2012.

“I was very happy with him. My worry was if he would travel well enough down the hill but he travelled well and jumped well – it was a great performance.”

Petit Mouchoir, trained by Henry De Bromhead, led with two jumps to go but was hauled back by the two Henderson horses.

Henderson (left), Fehily (centre) and McManus (right)
Henderson (left), Fehily (centre) and McManus (right) were presented with awards on a record day for trainer, jockey and owner

The 66-year-old also trains My Tent Or Yours, who finished second for a third time, having fallen just short in 2016 and 2014.

“I just know he’s a very talented horse,” Henderson said of Buveur D’Air.

“He’d won two novice chases and I just knew there was more there. You just felt there was unfinished business.

“It was very open – you could have had any sort of winner. I was happy with the ground, it hadn’t dried like people thought it would. I knew it was safe enough and I thought it would suit him.

“All records are there to be broken. It’s the horses and the people that make it. It’s rather surreal really. Of course it’s special, it’s just fun. When this thing happens it’s even better fun.”

Analysis

Cornelius Lysaght, BBC horse racing correspondent

Though the past two champions – Annie Power and Faugheen – weren’t present because of injury, and their fans are sure to have a view on how they’d have fared against Buveur D’Air, you have to say the new champ took the crown in fine style.

Taking over the lead as he headed towards the last hurdle, the only six-year-old really asserted, with a three-time runner-up four and a half lengths away in second.

Trainer Nicky Henderson is superb with these top hurdlers, and he enjoyed a memorable day with Altior taking the Arkle Trophy, though how big a battle he’d have had if Charbel – who fell in the lead at the second last – stood up we’ll never know.

Opening day highlights

In the first of Tuesday’s races, 17-year-old jockey Jack Kennedy claimed a stunning victory on Labaik, a 25-1 shot who had refused to run in several of his previous races, in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.

“It was brilliant, a dream come true. The horse can be very quirky but it all worked out well,” Kennedy told BBC Radio 5 live.

“I don’t really come from a racing background, My mother’s grandfather might have had a pony or something, that’s about it.

“My father is a welder and my mother is a child-minder, but my older brother had a few ponies at home. I started pony racing when I was nine and that was it.”

Jack Kennedy celebrates his win
Kennedy, 17, finished ahead of Ruby Walsh riding Melon, with River Wylde third and Ballyandy fourth

Labaik’s trainer Gordon Elliott had three wins – a 1,988-1 treble – in total over the day, with Lisa O’Neill steering 16-1 shot Tiger Roll, the 2014 Triumph Hurdle winner, to victory in the National Hunt Chase on her first ride at Cheltenham, and Apple’s Jade (7-2) triumphing in the Mares hurdle.

Apple’s Jade was previously trained by Willie Mullins, the leading Festival trainer for five of the past six years, but owner and Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary switched to Elliott following a row.

There was another victory for Henderson in the Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices’ Chase, as Altior came in ahead of Cloudy Dream and Ordinary World – the trainer’s sixth win in the race.

Leader Charbel fell at the penultimate fence, leaving Altior clear to claim a victory which netted one punter £100,000 from a £400,000 bet.

In the Ultima Handicap Chase, Un Temps Pour Tout claimed a second successive victory, with Singlefarmpayment second and Noble Endeavour third.

The final race of the day, the Novices’ Handicap Chase, won by Tully East, was delayed because of an injury to Edwulf in the previous race.

BBC Radio 5 live sports extra reported that buckets of water were thrown over the JP McManus-owned horse after it collapsed and was removed from the track.

The horse was attended by vets, who arranged for him to be transported to the racecourse stables for further assessment.

A statue unveiled

Before the day’s racing began, 20-time champion jump jockey Sir Anthony McCoy saw a statue put up in his honour at the racecourse.

“I can only say a huge thank you to Cheltenham,” said the jockey, commonly known as AP.

“It was 20 years this week when I won the Champion Hurdle and Gold Cup and I had my first ride here in 1994. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would have a statue put up in my honour.”

McCoy, 42, rode 31 winners at the Festival, including two Gold Cups and three Champion Hurdle successes.

What to watch on Wednesday

The Queen Mother Champion Chase leads the billing at Cheltenham on Wednesday.

The Willie Mullins-trained Douvan is the overwhelming pre-race favourite to add to two previous Festival wins, having landed the 2015 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and the 2016 Arkle Trophy.

Douvan’s nine rivals include Special Tiara, who finished third in the past two years, and Fox Norton and Sizing Granite, both trained by Colin Tizzard.

Top Gamble, Garde La Victoire, Traffic Fluide, Gods Own, Simply Ned and Sir Valentino complete the 10-strong field.

http://www.bbc.com

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