Champion Hurdle preview: 'Frightening' Buveur D'Air ready to defend crown at Cheltenham

Mon 12 Mar 2018

Nicky Henderson has every faith in Buveur D'Air as the Seven Barrows trainer bids to win the Unibet Champion Hurdle for a seventh time at Cheltenham on Tuesday.

(Get Champion Hurdle statistics, trends, history and full replays with our pack)

Henderson already holds the record with six triumphs, the first coming back in 1985 with three-time winner See You Then.

He could not have a better representative than Buveur D'Air, who gave him the prize 12 months ago, and who has been superbly prepared for the double.

After winning all his three starts this term, the seven-year-old is bound to be at his very best for his big day.

Henderson said: "Buveur D'Air's greatest asset is his jumping - he is so quick it is frightening. He measures them so precisely - it is like hurdlers in athletics - absolute precision.

Watch Nicky Hendrson discuss his Champion Hurdle team with Nick Lightfoot

"He is just very good at jumping. I think he is improving - he is getting stronger. When he was third in the Supreme to Altior at the Festival two years ago, we knew he was a good horse on the way up."

Henderson's four-strong team also includes My Tent Or Yours, who has been Champion Hurdle runner-up three times, Charli Parcs and Verdana Blue.

Willie Mullins also has four runners, headed by the 2015 hero Faugheen. He has yet to show he is back to his best, but connections are in a positive frame of mind.

Mullins' son and assistant, Patrick, said: "Faugheen's form of November (when he won the Morgiana) shows he still has the talent of old but we've been scratching our heads the last two runs, the same as everybody else.

_Watch Ruby Walsh and Nick Luck discuss Faugheen's chances on Tuesday _

"We've changed a few things at home like we did last year with Nichols Canyon. We've added the cheekpieces for no real reason but he has nothing to lose wearing them.

"I think the soft ground will help us as it will make it more of a stamina test. It's hard to expect a big run after his last two runs, but at the same time, me and Dad are still confident he is better than his last two runs."

Arguably the most interesting of the Mullins quartet is Yorkhill.

"Without doubt he has been the most frustrating horse in the yard this season," said Mullins jnr.

Watch Patrick Mullins discuss Yorkhill's chances

"He has so much talent but this season nothing has gone to plan. He is a very interesting horse and his best form comes at Cheltenham.

"Again, the soft ground will help him as it will turn it into a stamina test and both his wins here have been over two and a half miles. He has schooled well over hurdles since his last run.

"It's hard to know what Yorkhill will turn up but hopefully David Mullins can work the best out of him."

Mullins believes Melon could be the dark horse of the party.

He said: "We've taken the hood off from last time. He is a very unexposed horse and has the potential to improve. His work at home suggests he has improved again and he has a big chance of being in the money.

"Don't forget, last year entering the Supreme he had only had the one run over hurdles."

The amateur is looking forward to riding Wicklow Brave for his father.

"He won a County Hurdle on soft ground so that won't be a problem and, to me, he seems great at home," he said.

"He is not coming here off a prep run but he ran very well in the race last year. The most important key to him is if he jumps off with the others.

"If he does, he has got a great chance of being placed as we know he handles the track and the ground."

Alan King is happy for Elgin to take his chance after the six-year-old was supplemented following his victory in the Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton.

Watch the closing stages of Elgin's Kingwell Hurdle win at Wincanton

"We are not really under any pressure and we are looking forward to it," said the Barbury Castle trainer.

"He didn't run a bad race at Ascot just before Christmas with top weight when he got beat. They went quite slow that day and that wouldn't have been ideal for him.

"I was surprised how much he improved again before Wincanton. Wayne (Hutchinson) was amazed how well he quickened turning in and we got to the front way too soon."

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