Cheltenham 2018 Day One Review – Double D’Air
Buveur d’Air has a bit to go to prove himself as one of the greats of hurdling history but he’s getting much closer than most by landing a second Champion Hurdle under Barry Geraghty on Tuesday.
Gamble of the day Melon put last year’s winner to the sword but Nicky Henderson’s 59th Cheltenham Festival winner toughed it out to beat Melon by a neck and become the first horse since Hardy Eustace to win the Champion Hurdle in consecutive years.
Soft ground certainly doesn’t deter Buveur d’Air and if anything he thrives on it and a delighted Henderson said afterwards…
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.”
Best Foot Forward
Willie Mullins landed his first race of the week when Footpad obliged in the Arkle and he might not have been quite as foot perfect as we had come accustomed to but after Petit Mouchoir and Saint Calvados went a fierce gallop in front, Ruby waited and waited and got his due rewards for all the hardship endured following his broken leg.
Mullins still seeks his first Gold Cup and Footpad could be back for a crack at that race next year.
“Going past the stands the first time the horse was off the bridle and when he made that bad mistake I thought, ‘Oooh, that’s it, over’, and he was off the bridle the whole way down the back, but Ruby sat and sat and waited for the two in front [Petit Mouchoir and Calvados] to come back.
He had a feeling the ones in front were going too fast and it turned out to be right.
At the start of the season I had him earmarked as a JLT or a RSA horse but his jumping has just brought him to another level and I think he could be a Gold Cup horse,” Mullins said.
A Mullins treble was completed when Rathvinden won the National Hunt Chase after Benie Des Dieux came out on top in the Mares’ Hurdle which saw Apple’s Jade fail to win the race for the second year running on a trying day for Gigginstown.