RACING SANDOWN PARK 3 February Sandown Park, Surrey THE reigning champion hurdler Buveur D’Air was the highlight of a Sandown treble for Nicky Henderson on Saturday (3 February) — three winners which took the trainer to the 100-winner mark for the 2017/2018 season. Henderson is building quite a team for Cheltenham — he will enter Champion Chase favourite Altior for a possible reappearance in the Game Spirit at Newbury on Saturday (10 February) and take a view on the ground. However, if there was any disappointment for the champion trainer about Sandown’s Betfred Contenders Hurdle it was that there were only three runners, and nothing capable of getting Buveur D’Air out of second gear, let alone his comfort zone. He only beat last year’s Swinton Hurdle winner John Constable a length and three quarters and having eased down a bit prematurely — a signal the seven-year-old gelding took as the moment to down tools — Barry Geraghty had to ride him out over the last 100 yards to avoid embarrassment, although the runner-up was substantially flattered by the winning margin. Buveur D’Air has now gone nearly two years unbeaten over hurdles but Henderson made it very clear he would keep having to pump work into him if he is to retain his title. “It’s job done but he needs a huge amount of work so it’s not really job done,” he explained. “He’s got to keep working and I wouldn’t rule out a canter round Kempton or somewhere like that nearer the time. He’s a very burly horse and, like a lot of us, puts on weight very easily. He loves that ground; the one thing which would worry you is good to firm.” The day started well for Henderson when the JP McManus-owned mare Countister won the Betfred Novices’ Hurdle. However, racegoers were deprived of what would have been a cracking finish when the longtime leader Ainchea — for the Potts/Tizzard axis — arrived at the last on a half stride and in two minds about whether to come up Terrefort lands a Grade One novices’ chase, ridden by Daryl Jacob Buveur brushes rivals aside Nicky Henderson fires off a treble, but warns his invincible Buveur D’Air needs more work after an easy win long or stick in a short one. In the end he did neither before falling. Countister had loomed up on to the quarters of Ainchea at the second last but, having led at a sedate pace, the leader left the mare a bit flat-footed between the two hurdles. Ainchea looked like he might have nicked it, thereby causing further frustration for the Colin Tizzard yard. Henderson’s third winner was courtesy of Terrefort in the Betfred TV Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase. He has always said that Apple’s Shakira shows next to nothing at home and Terrefort is clearly another one which hides his light under a bushel at Seven Barrows. “I’m happy to keep eating humble pie as he keeps surprising me,” he said. “The handicapper [who put him up a stone at Huntingdon] is right and I’m wrong. This seemed an enormous bounce from a handicap into Grade One. We schooled him on Buveur D’Air (Barry Geraghty) stretches his winning run to almost two years, cantering home in the Betfred Contenders Hurdle ‘He’s a burly horse and, like a lot of us, puts on weight easily’ NICKY HENDERSON ON BUVEUR D’AIR’S FITNESS DRIVE Thursday and when Daryl Jacob jumped him over 10 fences you’d have wondered how he’d jump round here. You couldn’t watch anything slower at home but I love horses that do that to you.” There was also a tremendous finish between the Bowen brothers, Sean and James, in the Betfred Mobile Masters Handicap with Ballydine, ridden by Sean, just getting the measure of James on Holly Bush Henry. Charlie Longsdon might aim the winner for the National Hunt Chase now. H&H Pictures by Bill Selwyn 68 Horse & Hound 8 February 2018
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