Buveur D'Air toughs it out to cling on to title

The packed Cheltenham crowd trained their eyes on the contest as the race got under way

Buveur D'Air became the sixth horse to win the two-mile Champion Hurdle a couple of times, but the seven-year-old was made to battle for victory.

"The second horse is a good horse", said veteran handler Henderson after sending out yet another victor from his Seven Barrows yard near Lambourn, southern England.

But, either way, Melon slipped through on the inside and he turned for home a neck up on Buveur d'Air, an advantage he maintained until three quarters of the way up the hill.

"They were two very fearless horses, with two courageous jockeys". It's just been in the back of my mind and has always anxious me.

"Buveur D'Air had a battle on his hands, probably his first real battle this year". "He was brilliant. I can't say I was confident when we landed at the back of the first down the back".

"He didn't blow up, but he had a blow afterwards". He is sent to post again this year by Henry de Bromhead and is likely to try and blaze a trail from the front as was the case last term.

"That is a big relief as you are expected to collect and he has done. I'll speak to J P McManus and then we'll make a decision".

"Two very courageous horses and two great jockeys - I'm sure we got headed at the last and he was fearless to come back". The ground made it the ultimate test. "I've not had a talk to JP (McManus) to see what anybody wants to do, but as long as there's some soft ground around he could run".

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He added: "He's very good - you don't win them back to back unless you are very good".

But the top horses should still show their class over the jumps when the time comes.

"When she won last time I told David (Mullins) to not leave Cheltenham behind, win if you can but don't give her a hard race, and that's what he did". He found what was needed.

It would have been a great shame if the 8-year-old had missed out on the back of what was a very impressive return at Newbury last month when brushing aside the challenge of Politologue with the least of fuss. It was a proper race and the runner-up put it up. Coming here I thought she might be running on into third or fourth.

The eight-year-old, who is unbeaten in seven starts over fences, has lameness in his leg on the eve of the Cheltenham Festival. "He dug deep and scrapped it out".

"I'm delighted with him as it's vindicated what we have always thought about him".

The Mullins-trained Yorkhill was even more disappointing, eventually pulling up.

Footpad's performance was hard viewing for trainer Mullins who watched on anxiously as his charge staged his heroic comeback.

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