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Henderson sets targets for Champion squad after Buveur D'Air is sidelined

Buveur D'Air: ruled out for the foreseeable future after major surgery on Sunday
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Buveur D'Air may have been ruled out for the foreseeable future after picking up a nasty injury in Saturday's Fighting Fifth but Nicky Henderson could still hold the aces in the two-mile hurdling division in Britain this season with his reshuffled pack.

Henderson is responsible for the five shortest-priced British-trained horses in ante-post markets for the Unibet Champion Hurdle. One of those is 11-1 shot Buveur D'Air but the five-time champion trainer  revealed on Monday he did not know how long it would take the two-time winner to recover from Sunday's surgery.

The remaining four – last season's Cheltenham and Aintree juvenile winner Pentland Hills (9-1), Punchestown and Elite Hurdle winner Fusil Raffles (12-1), Epatante, whose price ranges from 14-1 to 25-1 after Saturday's impressive Newbury romp and last year's Christmas Hurdle winner Verdana Blue (33-1) – give the master of Seven Barrows a strong hand and he expects to be well represented in all the major trials.

“Pentland Hills will go to Cheltenham for the International and Fusil Raffles will go for the Christmas Hurdle, and he was always going to do that anyway,” said Henderson, who has won six of the last nine editions of the Kempton Grade 1.

Verdana Blue gets up on the line to beat Buveur D'Air in last year's Christmas Hurdle

Buveur D'Air won the Christmas Hurdle in 2017 and was pipped by stablemate Verdana Blue last year, although her participation is in some doubt. Henderson explained: “Verdana Blue is in the sales [on Tuesday], so it depends what happens, but if she comes home she could go back for the Christmas Hurdle and then we need to work out where we go with Epatante. We were quite impressed with her on Saturday.

“With Buveur D’Air not there we could still have two in the Christmas Hurdle and the International would probably be too soon, and we have Pentland Hills for that, so we need to work out where we go with her.”

Buveur D'Air reported to be comfortable after 'huge segment' of hoof is removed

As for Buveur D'Air, Henderson reported the dual Champion Hurdle winner to be comfortable after he underwent surgery to remove a piece of wood that got lodged in his hoof at Newcastle on Saturday.

The dual Fighting Fifth winner was lame after just getting touched off by Cornerstone Lad in his bid for a third victory in the Grade 1. His jockey Barry Geraghty reported his mount, who hit the second-last flight, had a splinter of wood in the lower section of his off-fore and on Sunday Buveur D'Air was operated on by David Mathieson and his team at Donnington Grove Veterinary Surgery in Newbury.

Henderson told the Racing Post on Monday: "He's sore, and he's bound to be because he's had a huge segment of his hoof removed from where they had to go in to get the piece of wood out. He's got a gaping hole in his hoof and it's not pretty – when it's half a horse's hoof it must be very painful.

The splinter which caused the injury to Buveur D'Air is visible during Saturday's Fighting Fifth

"He's getting the best medical attention there is, and he's comfortable, but it will take a long time to grow over. They didn't need to use a general anaesthetic, which is a plus, and thankfully he hasn’t damaged the joint, so we have a lot to be thankful for as it could have been much worse."

Henderson would not be drawn on whether Buveur D'Air could be seen again this season. Asked if he had any idea how long the recovery would take, he said: "No, none whatsoever. We can only wait for it to grow back and that could take some time."

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Pentland Hills will go to Cheltenham for the International and Fusil Raffles will go for the Christmas Hurdle
E.W. Terms