This wasn't in the script! Big three thwarted in extraordinary Champion outcome
None of the big three in the first three. No script for the Unibet Champion Hurdle, not even the most implausible, contained such a scenario beforehand.
Buveur D'Air, bidding for a Champion Hurdle hat-trick, was the first to leave the fray, an uncharacteristic error at the third flight ending his participation prematurely. It was so unlike him.
After watching him run loose alongside winner Espoir D'Allen past the post, trainer Nicky Henderson reflected: "He seems fine. Actually he nearly won the race but unfortunately there's a rule that says you have to have a jockey on top.
"We all have to take these things on the chin. You have a winner and then you're back to square one. With his hurdling, there's such a fine margin, an inch every time and you only have to get it wrong by half an inch.
"If you're so slick and accurate, you're dangerously low, and the margin for error will always be there. He was an inch lower than he should have been, I guess. I don't know – I'd have to see it again."
By the time of Buveur D'Air's departure Apple's Jade was already in bother. Jack Kennedy was niggling away and she looked in one of her moods. This was not a good day – even worse than her shock defeat at odds-on in last year's OLBG Mares' Hurdle – and she finished almost 30 lengths in arrears of Espoir D'Allen in sixth.
Kennedy said: "She seems fine but it's disappointing. I wasn't happy early on, but that's the way it goes."
Laurina looked to be travelling strongly at various stages but Ruby Walsh said that was misleading.
"She never raised a gallop and was never going," said Walsh after coming home in fourth. "It was a false sense of security. I tried to con myself into thinking I was going well but I was never happy."
Given her size and scope, chasing could be the making of Laurina, and Willie Mullins has already given her the go-ahead to tackle fences next season.
The trainer said: "I thought Laurina was a bit disappointing. She was beaten so far out. I'd imagine she'll go chasing next season, and to Punchestown first.
"I'd say she'll be stepped up in trip over fences next year, but we'll start her out over two miles."
On his now dual Champion Hurdle runner-up Melon, who made the running, Mullins added: "I thought he ran a cracker, that's probably the way we should ride him in future. He enjoyed it."
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