Unibet Champion Hurdle – Reaction of Winning Connections

Nicky Henderson recorded his 59th victory at the Cheltenham Festival with a record seventh success in the Grade 1 Unibet Champion Hurdle following Buveur D’Air’s win in the two-mile championship contest.

Speaking after his horse’s win, a delighted Henderson said: “It was a brilliant race. They went a good gallop throughout and Buveur D’Air and Melon were able to then keep that gallop up in the closing stages, it was a great contest to keep that up the whole way.

“They were two very brave horses, with two brave jockeys. I think he did get headed but Barry said he was never worried as he thought he would always get there.

“Buveur D’Air had a battle on his hands, probably his first real battle this year. After his last race at Sandown, we were talking about him not having any really hard races this year, but today was one.

“Unlike some of his prep races, this was a proper race and he showed his class. He was headed but Barry was always happy. It was a proper race and Melon is a good horse, but Buveur D’Air just put his head down and battled.

“He didn’t blow up, but he had a blow afterwards. He is a really good young horse; he did what he had to today.

“There’s always pressure when you are trying to win these big races, so it’s a big relief and it gives us confidence going into the week.

“We have four weeks until Aintree, so we could go back there again if there is soft ground in the going description. I’ll speak to J P McManus and then we’ll make a decision.”

Winning jockey Barry Geraghty said he was concerned as Buveur D’Air and Melon hit the home straight:

“I was concerned after they turned in, but the further up the straight I was going, the happier I was going, and I knew I could let Buveur D’Air pop the last and fill up in the process.

“There was nowhere to hide. The ground made it the ultimate test. The best horse was going to win, and thankfully I was on the best horse. He’s proved he is very good – you don’t win these back-to-back unless you are very good, and he’s won everything all season. He’s a top-class horse and he deserves the recognition. He scrapped it out today; he’s been flashy all season because he hasn’t had to deal with much, but today he had opposition and he lived up to it.

“Buveur D’Air won it the hard way. I was trying to save as much as I could off the turn in and then go for him as late as possible. He found what was needed. I missed one [hurdle] down the back, which I did not expect. It was a proper race and the runner-up put it up. I thought he was coming to beat me, but my fella is battle-hardened and tough as nails. I think he proved there that he is a better horse than last year. He really dug deep and was a scrapper today.”

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