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Henderson remains upbeat on Buveur D’Air despite comeback defeat

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Nicky Henderson was disappointed but not dismayed after dual Champion Hurdle hero Buveur D’Air suffered defeat on his long-awaited return to action at Haydock.

Having claimed Cheltenham Festival glory in both 2017 and 2018, the JP McManus-owned 10-year-old fell when bidding for the hat-trick the following season.

Hopes of regaining his crown last March were dashed by a freak injury suffered in the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle, where he returned with a piece of wood lodged in his foot, which later required surgery and a significant period of rehabilitation.

It has been a long road back for Buveur D’Air, but such was his well being, Henderson changed a long-term plan to run at Sandown next month and instead bring him out a fortnight earlier in The New One Unibet Hurdle on Merseyside.

Despite 14-month absence, he was widely expected to make a successful return against two rivals – but despite receiving weight from both eventual winner Navajo Pass and last year’s victor Ballyandy, the 8-11 favourite was unable to reel in Donald McCain’s front-runner.

However, Henderson was optimistic overall as he assessed the performance post-race.

“He’s jumped like he always used to – it’s very quick and accurate, isn’t it?,” said the Seven Barrows handler

“Nico (de Boinville) thought he’d got the winner covered going to the last, but then he took a big blow.

“He doesn’t like that very heavy ground. People will say I would say that, but there you go.

“He’s got a run under his belt and will come on tons for that. I’m still pleased we got on and did that today, rather than wait for Sandown in a fortnight’s time, as he wouldn’t be any straighter then – and we’ve now got more time to play with between now and March.”

Buveur D’Air is a general 20-1 shot to become the fifth horse to win a third Champion Hurdle, with Epatante – who won the race in her stablemate’s absence last season – the 9-4 favourite, despite also being beaten on her latest outing in the Christmas Hurdle.

Of Buveur D’Air, Henderson added: “We’ll stick to the plan and go for the Champion Hurdle.

“I’m disappointed not to win today. Of course you want to win and win on the bridle, but that was hardly going to happen in that ground – they’ve done well to race, to be honest with you.

“I do (think the old Buveur d’Air is in there), and he was bound to need it today. He looked big to me, the scales were saying that he’s lighter than he looks, but he does look big, and he needed to go and do something like that.

“I’d have preferred a different result, but that’s what we have to take. We know where we are and know what we’ve got to do.

“He pulled up sound and everything is right. There are no lumps or bumps – or pieces of wood sticking out!

“He’ll be tired tonight, there’s no doubt about that. He’s not going to run again before the Champion Hurdle, but you can go back to work and I’d say he’s almost certain to have a racecourse gallop somewhere.”

 
 

 

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KEMPTON PARK 16:45

Wednesday 03 March
1. SKY DEFENDER 122
Joe Fanning silk Joe Fanning
Mark Johnston hot trainer
5. AL MUFFRIH (IRE) 121
Marco Ghiani silk Marco Ghiani
Stuart Williams
2. ASSIMILATION (IRE) 120
Joanna Mason silk Joanna Mason
Ed Walker
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19:00 NEWCASTLE

1st Connor Beasley silk 7. DANIELSFLYER (IRE) 16/117
2nd Shane Gray silk ¾ 5. SEAS OF ELZAAM (IRE) 9/110
3rd P. J. McDonald silk 9. LASTING LEGACY 6/17
T: Michael Dods  
All 9 ran.
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18:30 NEWCASTLE

1st Clifford Lee silk 7. ALBA DE TORMES (IRE) 18/119
2nd Frederick Larson silk nk 6. HEADSHOT 8/19
J: Clifford Lee  
T: K. R. Burke  
7 ran. NRs: 1 
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18:00 NEWCASTLE

1st Elisha Whittington silk 2. IMPERIAL COMMAND (IRE) 15/82.87f
2nd Jack Garritty silk ½ 6. SILVER DUST (IRE) 5/16
3rd Robert Havlin silk ½ 1. URSA MINOR (IRE) 10/34.33
J: Elisha Whittington (5)  
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17:30 NEWCASTLE

1st Mark Crehan silk 6. SONGKRAN (IRE) 7/24.5cf
2nd Callum Rodriguez silk nk 5. HOME BEFORE DUSK 7/24.5cf
J: Mark Crehan (5)  
All 6 ran.
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17:20 GOWRAN PARK

1st Mr K. Callaghan silk 9. JUMPING JET (IRE) 14/115
2nd Mr Pat Taaffe silk 29 5. CHOICE OF WORDS 6/17
3rd Mr Finian Maguire silk 6. EYRE SQUARE (IRE) 4/15
J: Mr K. Callaghan (7)  
16 ran. NRs: 18  19  7 
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17:00 NEWCASTLE

1st Jamie Spencer silk 3. ONESMOOTHOPERATOR (USA) 3/14
2nd Ben Curtis silk 2. KEHAILAAN (IRE) 1/12f
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16:50 GOWRAN PARK

1st S. D. Torrens silk 7. WEIHNACHTS (IRE) 2/13f
2nd K. C. Sexton silk 3 5. THE CHAPEL FIELD (IRE) 4/15
3rd S. F. O'Keeffe silk ns 3. MONTAGNE D'ARGENT (IRE) 6/17
J: S. D. Torrens (5)  
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1st Harry Cobden silk 3. CAT TIGER (FR) 4/91.44f
2nd Charlie Deutsch silk 9. TANGO DE JUILLEY (FR) 6/17
3rd Lee Edwards silk 20 1. KILLARO BOY (IRE) 4/15
J: Harry Cobden  
9 ran. NRs: 7 
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16:30 NEWCASTLE

1st Billy Garritty silk 5. MADEEH 7/24.5
2nd Hollie Doyle silk ½ 2. GREAT ESTEEM (IRE) 13/82.62f
J: Billy Garritty (3)  
T: Philip Kirby  
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