Saturday, 2 December 2017

Nicky Henderson insists Buveur D'Air will be up to Faugheen clash ahead of Fighting Fifth return

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Nicky Henderson admits he is eagerly awaiting a clash between the fantastic Faugheen, and his reigning Champion Hurdle winner Buveur D'Air.

The six-year-old was unbeaten in five starts last season, where he landed the prestigious two-mile prize on the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival by just over four lengths.

He hasn't been seen since his five length win in the Aintree Hurdle, and takes on a field of just six in Newcastle's Fighting Fifth Hurdle this afternoon.

Bookmakers have installed him as short as 1-4 for the Grade One prize, where on ratings he has a 15lb advantage over last year's winner Irving.

“He’s had a completely trouble-free run into this race and I was very happy with his Newbury gallop under a Barry last Tuesday which really sharpened him up,” Henderson told his Unibet blog.

“He galloped again on Sunday with Laurium and Charli Parcs and went particularly well so it’s just a case of getting him out now and building up towards retaining his Champion Hurdle crown.

“The ground at Newcastle is going to be soft but that won’t bother him one iota and this looks a good starting point.

“Obviously Faugheen is back on the scene and will be a mega threat to everybody if in the same shape come March, but our horse is only six and is yet to reach his peak.”

Nicky Henderson's star is currently fancied at 4-1 to retain his Champion Hurdle crown, with bookmakers making Willie Mullins' Faugheen as short as 7-4 after his impressive returning victory.

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Nick Williams' Fred Winter winner Flying Tiger also takes his chance in Newcastle

Paul Nicholls isn't discounting 2014 and 2016 winner Irving despite the addition of the Champion Hurdle winner in the North East.

The nine-year-old failed to beat a rival when last seen in Wincanton back in February.

"He has been a fantastic trooper for the yard over the years and is seeking his third success in this famous old Grade 1 Hurdle at Newcastle," Nicholls told his Betfair blog.

"For all his considerable achievements he has never been straightforward, mainly because of problems with his feet, and he has become trickier to train by the season to the point that a couple of times I felt we might have to pull stumps with him.

"Irving is still a classy horse, bounced back to win this prize 12 months ago and is in good form at home as he returns to Newcastle once more.

"He also always runs well fresh and schooled brilliantly over hurdles on the grass this week.

"So there is plenty to look forward to although on all known form he cannot beat the reigning champion hurdler Buveur d'Air at level weights."

Fred Winter winner Flying Tiger lines up with outsiders Katgary and Mirsaale.

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