BUVEUR D’Air was made to pull out all the stops to successfully defend his crown in the Unibet Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham on Tuesday. Headed 100m out, he fought back gamely in a pulsating finish to win from Melon.
Nicky Henderson’s charge had sauntered to success on his previous three starts this season and topped the boards at 4-6 to become the first horse to win back-to-back renewals of the race since Hardy Eustace in 2004 and 2005.
The winner’s stablemate Charli Parcs was ridden forcefully and made the clip, challenging 2015 Champion Hurdle hero Faugheen for the lead for much of the two-mile journey.
It was clear some way from home Faugheen was not travelling with his old zest and in the end it was his stablemate Melon who proved the biggest threat to the reigning champion.
There was little to choose between the pair jumping the final flight and both fought tooth and nail all the way up the hill, but it was Buveur D’Air and Barry Geraghty who emerged victorious by a neck.
Henderson said: “What a great race. They’ve gone at a gallop that you wouldn’t believe they could keep up on that ground. He had a battle on his hands today… it’s always worried me that he hasn’t had much of a race this year. That’s the first time he’s had to have a fight.”