Buveur D'Air too good as he leads home Henderson one-two
A door once wide open has been welded shut. The two-mile hurdling division had been talked about as being up for grabs like never before prior to the Champion Hurdle, but after Buveur D’Air completed a festival double with a smooth success in the Aintree Hurdle there will be no such talk when this season comes to be written into history.
An SP of 4-9 makes a five-length win unremarkable, but a five-length win over stablemate My Tent Or Yours, also second at Cheltenham, underplays the superiority of a horse who not so long ago was most likely to be taking on Yorkhill and the other two-and-a-half-mile novice chasers.
Sam Twiston-Davies aboard The New One served it up to the field going down the back straight but, one or two sketchy jumps aside, there was hardly a moment's concern for Barry Geraghty, who was completing a Grade 1 double just four days after returning from injury and understatedly said before racing that this was a day he didn't want to miss.
Geraghty presented Buveur D'Air, who had raced apart from The New One for much of the straight, before the last and he was not hard pressed in coming clear. My Tent Or Yours took second late on as the The New One's efforts told.
When it was suggested to trainer Nicky Henderson that the decision to revert to hurdles with Buveur D'Air was inspired, he replied: "I don't know if I'd say inspired, he'd taken to fences well and we've blown his novice status now, not that I particularly envisage us going back to chasing next year.
"This division has been there for the taking all year, the Champion Hurdle door looked wide open and he’s taken it well. He's a genuine Champion Hurdler."
Buveur D’Air has now won three Grade 1s, having secured a first in last year's Top Novices' Hurdle. He is now one up in that score on My Tent Or Yours, who is four years his senior and now has six second-placed finishes in Grade 1s to go with his wins in the Fighting Fifth and Christmas Hurdle, both at the backend of 2013.
Henderson said: "Just about your first thought is, 'Poor Tent'. He's been a legend but so unfortunate, he's been beaten by younger legs again."
"He's fought out second with The New One, who's another grand old campaigner, and they've fought out so many races down the years. He also looks much more relaxed this season, he used to run away with AP [McCoy] as a younger horse."
More closely-fought than the battle on the track were the two being held just off it as Buveur D'Air drew clear. First is the phoney war of next year's Stan James Champion Hurdle, in which Defi Du Seuil had made his own statement a little more than an hour earlier in the Anniversary Hurdle. The gauntlet has now been thrown down and the champion was trimmed into a best-priced 4-1 to defend his title next year.
There is also the matter of the trainers' championship, which Henderson firmed up his chances of claiming for a fourth time with the £154,000 he accrued with his one-two.
Henderson, never as combative as rival Paul Nicholls when discussing the title, was only drawn so far on the race.
"We'll be trying our hardest to win the championship, don't worry about that," he admitted. "It'd be great for everyone at home, because it's a team effort."
While Henderson also suggested that Buveur D'Air will probably not run again this season, The New One has virtually never been asked to duck a fight and his trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies said: "We weren't too far behind the Champion Hurdle winner and he's been a marvellous servant.
"I think we'll finally try three miles and see how we go. We might even look at Punchestown, we'll see how he comes out of it."