Cheltenham Festival: Henderson eclipses Easterby's Hurdle landmark

Ross Houston
March 30, 2017

Buveur D'Air led home a one-two for trainer Nicky Henderson and owner JP McManus in the Stan James Champion Hurdle as Noel Fehily's mount powered away from My Tent Or Yours, who finished second in the race for the third time.

Henderson - who spoke of the "pressure being off" after Altior had landed the Arkle Trophy earlier in the day - said: "He won his two novice chases, but I just knew there was more there over hurdles".

Buveur D'Air's electrifying victory under weighing room veteran Noel Fehily was a sixth in hurdling's premier race for Henderson, eclipsing the remarkable five winners that Easterby saddled between 1967 (Saucy Kit) and Sea Pigeon (1981) from his Ryedale farm.

Asked when it was made a decision to bring Buveur back to hurdles, he smiled: "I can't remember what Nicky said - but he said it a couple of times!"

Jockey Mark Walsh avoided serious injury despite being thrown off his mount but he will not ride again this week at the most prestigious jumps meeting in British horse racing.

The race, over about 3300m and eight hurdles, was the day one feature, being worth £400,000 - or about AUD$643,200 - to kick off the famous festival that draws hundreds of thousands to Cheltenham racecourse across the week.

"I'll be going home a very happy lad now at the end of the week".

"It was a very open race, but I just knew he was a very talented horse".

When asked about the significance of having broken the Champion Hurdle training record, Henderson, who struck earlier on the card with Altior in the Arkle, added: "It's the horses and the people that make it".

"It's fantastic. To win one was great, to win two is special", said Fehily, whose first Champion Hurdle win came on Rock On Ruby in 2012.

"The two-and-a-half-mile race at Aintree (Aintree Hurdle) could suit him over that trip". Yanworth got a bit warm before the race.

If Henderson had a memorable afternoon, Gordon Elliott had a scarcely believable one with a first-day treble.

Elliott was back on top after the JT McNamara National Hunt Challenge Cup Amateur Riders' Novices' Chase as the unheralded Lisa O'Neill steered Tiger Roll to glory at odds of 16-1. He might go novice chasing next season.

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