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Nicky Henderson wary of Faugheen Champion Hurdle threat

Wed 7 Feb 2018

By Racinguk.com staff

Nicky Henderson still considers Faugheen a big danger to Buveur D'Air in the Unibet Champion Hurdle at next month's Cheltenham Festival.

The Willie Mullins-trained 10-year-old suffered his second successive odds-on defeat in the Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown last Saturday. 

Henderson said: "A Faugheen-Buveur D'Air clash with them both at their peak form would have been a big draw. It does make it look a bit easier now, but you can never underestimate Faugheen. He is a very good horse and Willie is a very good trainer. He knows where he is."

Plans are in place to give Buveur D'Air, who registered back-to-back victories in the Contenders Hurdle at Sandown last weekend, a racecourse gallop ahead of the defence of his title at Prestbury Park on March 13.

Henderson said: "I could have done with a little bit of a harder race, really. It would have been better to push him out instead of pulling him up, but it was fine and exactly what we wanted and I'm not complaining.

"He is a horse that needs plenty of work. Barry (Geraghty) said he was still taking blows. He will go to a racecourse for a gallop, but he won't go to Newbury this weekend.

"I wouldn't mind going somewhere on grass rather than on the all-weather because he loves that soft ground.

"If there was somewhere I could gallop around grass in two weeks' time, I would like to do that. He will go to a racecourse for a gallop, there is no doubt about that.

"Whereas I could go to Cheltenham with Altior or Might Bite without a run, I couldn't go there without him having a run. He hasn't had a race as such this season, and that is the worry.

"He is a brute and you have to fire work into him. You have got to really be on top of him."

On The Blind Side remains on course to put his unbeaten record on the line in the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle.

The six-year-old has not been sighted since winning a Grade Two at Sandown in December after he knocked a joint in the run-up to the Challow Hurdle at Newbury.

Henderson said: "He is good. He has got to look out for this Samcro. We thought we were tootling quite nicely towards that race (Ballymore) but we have got a rather big brick wall there in front of us."

He added: "I was talking to Alan (Spence) in South Africa on Monday and he said they have got to worry about us as well as us worrying about them. On The Blind Side is a good horse, he really is, and he was impressive at Sandown.

"He had sore shins at Cheltenham the time before and he didn't come down the hill. That is why I stuck to two and a half (miles) and didn't get tempted to go to three.

"It looked for all the world that he wants three miles but he had sore shins and didn't want to come down the hill. When he hit the rising ground, he was off and and away. You go downhill on sore shins and it will hurt."

Christmas Racing Weekend - Day One - Ascot Racecourse Henderson believes Claimantakinforgan was unsuited by Musselburgh (PA)

The four-times champion trainer confirmed that Claimantakinforgan will appear in the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle, while Mr Whipped will run in the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle - despite both horses suffering odds-on reversals at Musselburgh on Sunday.

Henderson said: "I think I ran Mr Whipped back to soon and my conclusion was that he was a bit flat.

"They (owners) were keen on running over three miles. They wanted to go to Haydock in a just under a fortnight's time and I thought Haydock in a bog three weeks before Cheltenham is not ideal.

"It didn't quite pay off but I think the winner (Red River) might be a good horse. He will be fine and he will go for the Albert Bartlett.

"I think the track and the ground all went against him (Claimantakinforgan). He is very slick over his hurdles, he just got lost around Musselburgh a bit.

"I'm pretty sure he will still go for the Supreme."

Henderson will make a decision nearer the time over the participation of Grade One winner Terrefort at Cheltenham.

The five-year-old made it two from two since joining Henderson when giving owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede a fourth successive victory in the Scilly Isles Novices' Chase at Sandown last Saturday.

Although the former Guillaume Macaire-trained gelding holds entries in both the RSA and JLT, Henderson has warned he could swerve both contests.

He said: "It was a good display at Sandown. He knew what he was doing and he jumped very well.

"He is only five and he must have soft ground. We have talked about Cheltenham very briefly. He doesn't have to go to there this year. We are sitting on the fence a little bit. He has won a Grade One this season.

"They (owners) are very good and they see that Cheltenham is not the be-all and end-all. They have got a good, strong team of horses to go to Cheltenham with.

"He has surprised us a lot and, in which case, it might just be worth looking after him a bit."

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