Henderson anticipating Buveur D’Air progress after Haydock return

Nicky Henderson was pleased with Buveur D’Air’s comeback effort in defeat at Haydock on Saturday and feels the fire still burns brightly.

The two-times Champion Hurdle winner needs to defy the statistics at Cheltenham in March if he is to regain his crown, as the last 10-year-old to win the race was Sea Pigeon in 1980, who went on to win it again as an 11-year-old the following season.

Buveur D’Air faced two rivals in the Champion Hurdle Trial on Merseyside, but could not peg back the front-running Navajo Pass, who was given a bold ride by Sean Quinlan.

The JP McManus-owned former champion was having his first race for over 400 days after suffering a season-ending injury in the 2019 Fighting Fifth Hurdle, when a piece of timber became lodged in his hoof.

“He was absolutely 100 per cent this morning, which was great,” said Henderson.

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“It was different than coming back from something like a tendon injury and I did feel if something was going to rear it’s head this time, it would have been early on in his preparation rather than late.

“He was great this morning though, good as gold, and that’s the main thing.”

Henderson had originally planned to run Buveur D’Air in Sandown’s Contenders Hurdle next month, a race he has won three times before, but he came to hand quicker than expected.

“I couldn’t have got him any fitter at home if we were to wait for Sandown, so we’ve two weeks longer to get him as well as we can (for Cheltenham) now,” said Henderson.

“What you’ve got to remember is he’s 10 now, it’s not like training a four-year-old or a five-year-old who has had a year off.

“I’m not saying he’s got old legs or anything like that, but he is a bit older and it’s that bit harder for them. It doesn’t mean they don’t retain all their ability, though.

“I know no 10-year-old has won it since Sea Pigeon and then you have to go all the way back to Hatton’s Grace, but we were very happy with how he ran.

“Of course we wanted to win, but I’m pleased we did it. I don’t think he did anything wrong in that ground. He did not like it but his jumping was still so fast, that was still great to watch.

“The last time he ran in ground as bad as that he was beaten at Aintree by Supasundae and then three weeks later went to Punchestown and bolted up in their Champion Hurdle under Davy Russell.”

JP McManus, Nicky Henderson (centre) and Davy Russell after the 2019 Punchestown Champion Hurdle
JP McManus, Nicky Henderson (centre) and Davy Russell after the 2019 Punchestown Champion Hurdle (PA Wire)

Henderson is lucky enough to be in the position of housing the current champion, too, in Epatante, but she needs to bounce back from a below-par run at Kempton over Christmas.

“We’ve Epatante as well, of course, and if they both get there in one piece we’ll be happy, but with that under his belt, I really think we can build on that,” said the Seven Barrows handler, who is now also looking for another opening for smart novice chaser Allart, who was a faller at Haydock on Saturday.

“Allart was fine as well, but that was annoying because he’s got to go and do something else now. His schooling and everything had been fantastic, but there you go,” said Henderson.

Henderson thrilled to see Allart prove up to the task on chasing bow at Ascot

Nicky Henderson was delighted with the outcome of Allart’s chasing debut in the Sky Bet Noel Novices’ Chase at Ascot, having been a little nervous at starting off at such a lofty level.

It is slightly unusual for a horse to have a first run over the larger obstacles in Grade Two company – and early on Allart was out the back having made a couple of sketchy jumps. But as the race wore on, with Kiltealy Briggs and Fiddlerontheroof ensuring a testing gallop, the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle fifth began to warm to his task.

Turning for home as Pic D’Orhy dropped away, Allart began to take aim at Fiddlerontheroof and Robbie Power and his sizeable engine was on display as he quickened smartly between the final two fences.

On the run to the last Nico de Boinville was motionless as Allart hit top gear and flew past last year’s Tolworth Hurdle winner, with the 5-2 chance coming two and three-quarter lengths clear.

Paddy Power cut him to 14-1 from 40s for the Marsh Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham in March.

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“He was great. I wouldn’t often do that. I’ve done it before and regretted it,” said Henderson.

“It was the same race Angels Breath won last year, who Ronnie (Bartlett, owner) also owned half of. He of course picked up a nasty injury, but he is on the way back for next year.

“That was a great bit of horsemanship and riding from Nico because he managed to educate him at the same time as winning the race.

“To do that first time out in a Grade Two was brave, verging on stupidity from my point of view, and brave but brilliant from Nico.

“Ascot is not an easy track to bring a novice, I normally don’t take them to Cheltenham or Ascot first time out so it was slightly un-Henderson like.”

Allart put in a power-packed finish to win on chasing debut
Allart put in a power-packed finish to win on chasing debut (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Looking to future plans, the Seven Barrows trainer said: “That was two-three today, so where do we go. We have Shiskin, who beat him the Supreme, over two miles and while he’ll stay two and a half miles no problem then you walk into Envoi Allen.

“But, as some people tell me, not all roads lead to Cheltenham. I certainly think we’ll be sticking above two miles, but I’d be surprised if he was a three-miler as he has so much pace.”

Henderson was also on the mark with Emir Sacree (11-1) in the opening ITV7 £100K Jackpot On Boxing Day Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle, a close relation to the brilliant Sprinter Sacre.

Joe Anderson riding Emir Sacree led the field on the first circuit and maintained his advantage
Joe Anderson riding Emir Sacree led the field on the first circuit and maintained his advantage (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“Graham Porter owns him and tells me he is a three-quarter brother to Sprinter and he’s also sent me another brother, a four-year-old called Go Sacre Go,” said Henderson.

“He will have his first run in a novice hurdle soon. They are both lovely horses.

“This lad was suppose to go over fences, but I thought I’d see where we were and it surprised us all a little bit. We might think again about chasing now.

“I must also mention Joe Anderson who rode him, as his partner wanted to get on with it but he just managed to save enough.”