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Navajo Pass upsets Buveur D’Air at Haydock

Navajo Pass inflicted a surprise defeat on the returning Buveur D’Air in Haydock’s The New One Unibet Hurdle.

Donald McCain’s winner was sent off the 4-1 outsider of three to beat dual Champion Hurdle hero Buveur D’Air and Ballyandy – who took this Grade Two 12 months ago.

But forceful tactics paid off as Navajo Pass led from the outset and kept enough in reserve to see off Buveur D’Air, who challenged after the last hurdle but could not reel in his rival and had to settle for a four-and-a-quarter length second.

Sent off the 8-11 favourite, Nicky Henderson’s Buveur D’Air was having his first run in 14 months, since suffering an injury that required surgery when also beaten at short odds in the 2019 Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle.

A thrilled McCain said of his Sean Quinlan-ridden winner: “He’s going to be a very smart horse.

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“This is a season where you usually get lost a bit because it’s his first season out of juvenile hurdles. We’ve been running in handicaps with huge weights and today he was taking on two horses that were twice his age!

“It’s hard, but we knew he was fit, we knew he could jump and we knew he was in good nick after winning up at Musselburgh.

“We could have floated round for third, but I spoke to Tim (Leslie, owner) before and we said we’d take a punt and make it a test and see what happens.

“We were obviously counting on Buveur D’Air needing the run in bad old Haydock ground. To get the old horse back from the injury he had is a big effort from Nicky and his team.

Navajo Pass on his way to victory
Navajo Pass on his way to victory (David Davies/PA)

“We just came here thinking there was nowhere else to go before the spring festivals and it’s worked out.”

Navajo Pass is not entered in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham.

Asked whether supplementing was a possibility, McCain added: “We’ll speak to Tim. I don’t think he’s a Champion Hurdle horse – I don’t think he’s got the natural speed for a Champion Hurdle, but I might be wrong.

“My first thoughts were he’s going to be more suited to Aintree, if anywhere. I know Tim likes Aintree and we love Aintree, obviously.

“We’ll just enjoy today for now. I can’t emphasise enough that he’s next year’s horse.”

Bookmaker reaction to the comeback defeat of Buveur D’Air saw his ante-post price for this year’s Champion Hurdle double from 10-1 to 20-1 with Betfair and Paddy Power.

Henderson said: “Of course we’re disappointed, but the winner set a really good gallop and I think they were going as fast as they could behind him, to be honest.

“It looked as though he (Buveur D’Air) was going to get there comfortably, but when he got to the last he just had a big blow.

“That ground is not for him, but he’s done well and his jumping was as good as ever – he jumped every hurdle like he used to.

“I’d expect him to come on hugely. He’ll definitely still go for the Champion Hurdle and he won’t run beforehand.”

Buveur D’Air declared for Haydock return

Buveur D’Air will face just two rivals when he makes his comeback in The New One Unibet Hurdle at Haydock on Saturday.

The dual Champion Hurdle hero is in line for his eagerly-awaited return after being sidelined since he picked up a nasty injury to his hoof at Newcastle in November 2019.

The Nicky Henderson-trained 10-year-old had a six-inch splinter stuck in his foot when beaten in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle, requiring surgery.

Nicky Henderson has been encouraged by Buveur D'Air in recent weeks
Nicky Henderson has been encouraged by Buveur D’Air in recent weeks (Steven Paston/PA)

It has been a long road, but Buveur D’Air has been pleasing Henderson of late and is now ready to return to the fray.

The Grade Two contest sees him take on last year’s winner Ballyandy, from the Nigel Twiston-Davies stable, and Donald McCain’s Navajo Pass.

Royale Pagaille heads a field of 10 for the Peter Marsh Handicap Chase.

The Venetia Williams-trained seven-year-old relishes testing conditions and has registered convincing victories on this course and at Kempton this season.

Sam’s Adventure, trained by Brian Ellison, demonstrated his liking for a test of stamina when landing the Tommy Whittle Handicap Chase over course and distance last month.

Anthony Honeyball is two-handed with Sam Brown and Acey Milan. The latter is one of five horses running from outside the handicap. The others are Lamanver Pippin, Potters Legend, Just Your Type and Claud And Goldie.

Allart, a highly-promising winner on his fencing debut at Ascot last month, will be a warm order for the race carrying his trainer’s name, the Read Nicky Henderson’s Unibet Blog Novices’ Chase.

The seven-year-old is one of five declared for the Grade Two contest over two and a half miles.

The quartet of Empire Steel, Marown, Silber Hallmark and Galahad Quest should provide decent opposition.

The other Grade Two on the card is the Sky Bet Supreme Trial Rossington Main Novices’ Hurdle, which also has a field of five.

Tom Symonds saddles course and distance scorer Llandinabo Lad, while Michael Scudamore’s Nada To Prada took a Listed contest on this course last month.

Falvoir, Minella Drama and Anythingforlove complete the quintet.