Buveur D'Air wins Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham

March 15, 2017

The opening day of the Cheltenham Festival brought glory for Buveur D'Air in the Champion Hurdle, ridden by Noel Fehily.

Priced at 5-1, the second favourite left the rest of the field trailing to give trainer Nicky Henderson his sixth winner of the race, making him the most successful ever trainer in Champion Hurdle History. My Tent Or Yours was second and Petit Mouchoir came third.

Henderson's success in the event had begun in the 1980s with a spectacular hat-trick of wins by See You Then in 1985, 1986 and 1987. He had to wait until 2009 for a fourth when Punjabi won, but then equalled the record with Binocular the following year.

Speaking about his record-breaking horse, the trainer said of Buveur D'Air: "He'd won two novice chases and I just knew there was more there. You just felt there was unfinished business.

"It was very open - you could have had any sort of winner. I was happy with the ground, it hadn't dried like people thought it would. I knew it was safe enough and I thought it would suit him."

The victory was also a landmark for owner JP McManus as it was his 50th winner at Cheltenham, and a second Champion Hurdle win for the jockey, who rode Rock On Ruby to victory in 2012.  

Fehily said: "It's fantastic. To win one was great, to win two is special.

"I was very happy with him. My worry was if he would travel well enough down the hill but he travelled well and jumped well - it was a great performance."

McManus is also the owner of My Tent Or Yours, and his success in this race is likely to be one of a number at the festival.

However, the opening day was not just about the continued success of veteran owners, trainers and jockeys; at the other end of the scale, 17-year-old jockey Jack Kennedy stunned punters by riding 25-1 shot Labaik to victory in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle.

Labaik's win was part of an extraordinary 1,988-1 treble for trainer Gordon Elliot, who also enjoyed success with 16-1 shot Tiger Roll in the National Hunt Chase on Lisa O'Neill's debut in the saddle at the course, while Apple's Jade was the 7-2 winner of the Mares hurdle.

It all made for a superb opening day of the year's first big racing festival and it may whet the appetite for those planning corporate days out at the Epsom Derby festival in early June.

Of course, before then there will be the rest of the Cheltenham Festival, not to mention the Grand National meeting at Aintree next month.

Today (March 15th) is Ladies' Day, with the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase being the highlight. Douvan is the favourite for this race. Tomorrow is St Patrick's Thursday and besides the Irish-themed outfits, the Sun Bets Stayers’ Hurdle and The Ryanair Steeple Chase will be the big highlights.

Finally, Friday will be Gold Cup Day, with Djakadam, ridden by Ruby Walsh and Richard Johnson's steed Cue Card both 7-2 with most bookies, while many are offering that same price for Cue Card, ridden by PJ Brennan.

With such tight odds, this could be one of the most memorable Gold Cup races in years.

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