Buveur D'Air in shock switch to target hurdling crown
Nicky Henderson tossed a new candidate into the Stan James Champion Hurdle reckoning yesterday when announcing Buveur D'Air's chasing campaign would be a cut short in favour of tilt at the crown vacated by Annie Power.
Only 24 hours earlier the trainer had indicated Buveur D'Air was likely to bid for a third win over fences in the Grade 1 Betfred TV Scilly Isles Novices' Chase at Sandown this weekend, but a rethink resulted in a change of priority.
Buveur D'Air will now join Yanworth – due to contest Sandown's Contenders Hurdle on Saturday – in owner J P McManus's Champion Hurdle team following a decision based on the uncertainty about the make-up of the Willie Mullins challenge and Buveur D'Air's form in novice hurdles, he having beaten Irish Champion Hurdle winner Petit Mouchoir last term.
"It's been decided Buveur D'Air will not run in the Scilly Isles Chase at Sandown on Saturday and will instead revert to hurdles, with a crack at the Stan James Champion Hurdle the main objective," Henderson said in his Stan James blog.
'He's a very good hurdler'
"Faugheen is still the best hurdler in Britain and Ireland and could still be tough to beat, but it was a decision we had to make now and Barry Geraghty came and schooled him this morning and he jumped beautifully.
"He's a very good hurdler and has close form with Petit Mouchoir, so it made sense to go back over timber. The Morebattle Hurdle at Kelso in two weeks’ time is where he'll next run."
Buveur D'Air had been available at 33-1 for the Champion Hurdle on Monday morning but was being cut right up to yesterday's announcement to a top-priced 10-1 with Betway. He is as low as 5-1 with Coral for a race Annie Power has been ruled out of by a setback, with stablemate and former winner Faugheen having to miss Sunday's Irish Champion Hurdle.
'It comes as no surprise'
Coral spokesman Simon Clare said: "All day we've been fielding bets for Buveur D'Air for the Champion Hurdle and taking evasive action, so it comes as no surprise to read the horse will indeed be targeted at the opening day feature, rather than one of the novice chases at the festival."
Henderson will still be involved at Sandown where Brain Power, impressive winner of the Wessex Youth Trust Handicap Hurdle in December, is set to contest the Contenders Hurdle, which has been moved back half an hour to 1.50 to slot into a revised ITV Racing schedule.
Henderson said: "Top Notch would run in the Scilly Isles and Brain Power in the Contenders Hurdle. It could hinge on the ground a little bit, but he is in good form and they have all worked well this morning."
The Contenders, sponsored by Betfred, had been scheduled at 1.20, before ITV4 was due to come on air on Saturday. Sandown clerk of the course Andrew Cooper said: "We've been mulling over a move since the end of last week. We wanted to see who was entered.
"It's been on the TV schedule in the past but wasn't recently because it invariably threw up a small and not particularly competitive field. It's a slightly different proposition this year than in some years."