Air force: Buveur shows champion class after blowing away rivals
He has air in his name but he jumps a flight with absolutely none to spare. When negotiating a hurdle Buveur D'Air wastes not a centimetre of daylight, and that was evident again in a Christmas cracker of a performance that confirmed the reigning champion as the one to beat when his Cheltenham crown comes up for grabs in March.
On Friday Faugheen will get the chance to underline his credentials when he makes the second appearance in his comeback tour at Leopardstown.
For now, though, Buveur D'Air, is first choice with the majority of bookmakers for the Unibet Champion Hurdle after a super-smooth drubbing of solid benchmark The New One that was memorable not only for the way in which the soon-to-be seven-year-old sauntered clear through the final furlong but for the fast and accurate way in which he jumped under Barry Geraghty.
"You won't see anything quicker from A to B," said winning trainer Nicky Henderson. "Barry says he's too young to remember See You Then, but that was his asset as well. He got from A to B so quickly.
"The great thing is he's just flicking the top bar but his knees are up. He's in, out, gone. Gosh, he was quick today.
"It's horrible to watch because there's no margin. Funnily enough, though, those hurdles at Cheltenham make them stand up a little bit more. I might try to bring him up an inch between now and then." Geraghty would rather he did not.
As 2-11 favourite, Buveur D'Air was expected to win this Unibet Christmas Hurdle with little fuss. Even so, the jockey was delighted with the display, and he is looking forward to experiencing the thrill Noel Fehily savoured when he won the Champion on JP McManus's star last season.
Geraghty explained: "Nicky says he needs to come up a bit. I said, 'No'. There are times when a horse is low and it's a bit edgy to see. With him it's measured. I hope I don't regret saying that.
"If you look at some great Champion Hurdle winners, horses like Binocular, Hurricane Fly and Hardy Eustace, they were measured. It's a style. This lad is measured to a T."
"It's amazing he has now been second in this Grade 1 four times," said Nigel Twiston-Davies. "He looks as good as ever but others are better than him. So we might try another plan and go to the Stayers' Hurdle."
There is no doubt in which race Buveur D'Air goes at Cheltenham, but he will go somewhere before that, given Henderson is adamant another run will be needed for a novice chaser-turned-champion hurdler now a best-priced 15-8 to be champion again.
Asked if the Faugheen camp should have been trembling when watching this Kempton tour de force, Henderson said: "I hope so! I hope they didn't enjoy watching it. We enjoyed it anyway. We enjoyed it because it's now over.
"If he didn't do it well everyone would be disappointed and trying to find holes in him. I don't think there were any holes today."
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