Dual Champion Hurdle hero Buveur D’Air could make his first appearance on Irish soil in the Betdaq Champion Hurdle at Punchestown.
The Nicky Henderson-trained eight-year-old returned to Cheltenham last month bidding to become the sixth horse in history to win a third Champion Hurdle – and the first since another JP McManus-owned star in the great Istabraq.
However, Buveur D’Air came to grief at the third flight and then had to make do with the runner-up spot behind Jessica Harrington’s Supasundae when bidding for a second victory in the Aintree Hurdle last week.
Buveur D'Air was just denied by Supasundae at Aintree last time out
Henderson said: “Buveur D’Air only ran at Aintree last week, but he has come out of the race very well and we’ve made an entry for him at Punchestown.
“He is of an age now that he can do these sort of things and run at Punchestown and if Buveur D’Air tells me in a fortnight that he is in good form, he will hopefully go.
“With the meeting being in May this year, we do have extra time between Aintree and Punchestown which is a big help.
“We’ll just keep an eye on the ground in the meantime.”
Buveur D’Air is one of 17 entries for the Punchestown Champion Hurdle – with Willie Mullins responsible for eight. The champion trainer’s octet includes Faugheen, star novice Klassical Dream, Melon, Benie Des Dieux and Laurina.
Other contenders include last year’s winner Supasundae, trained by Jessica Harrington, and Samcro – who has endured a troubled campaign for Gordon Elliott.
Samcro in winning action at the Cheltenham Festival
“We’ve just gone steadily with Samcro over the last couple of months. He has missed Cheltenham and Aintree, but he’s in good shape and going well at home, so there’s a chance we could see him before the end of the season,” said Elliott.
“He’s been given entries in the Betdaq Champion Hurdle and the Ladbrokes Stayers Hurdle and we’ll just see how he is over the next week and then make a decision on where to go with him or whether we just leave him be to go chasing next season.”
The other Grade One on day four of the Punchestown Festival is the Alanna Homes Champion Novice Hurdle.
Reserve Tank caused an upset in the Betway Mersey Novices' Hurdle at Aintree
Mullins is responsible for 22 of the 47 hopefuls for this two-and-a-half-mile contest, with Klassical Dream, Annamix, Allaho and Quick Grabim all in the mix.
The possible star attraction is Martin Brassil’s Cheltenham hero City Island, while Colin Tizzard is keen to run Aintree victor Reserve Tank.
“We fully intended to come to Punchestown with Reserve Tank,” Tizzard said.
“He has improved massively for his last three runs and he hasn’t had much racing this season.
“It will be interesting to see what he is like up against the very best.”