Trainer Nicky Henderson savoured a record-breaking sixth Champion Hurdle triumph after Buveur D’Air won the showpiece on day one of the Cheltenham Festival on Tuesday.
The 5/1 second favourite romped home by four and a half lengths to give jockey Noel Fehily a brace of victories in the race and bring up a half-century of Festival winners for owner JP McManus.
Stablemate My Tent Or Yours finished runner-up in the Champion Hurdle for a third time, while the Henry de Bromhead-trained Petit Mouchoir, who led with two fences remaining, was third.
“It’s great to break the record but they are there to be broken, I’ve always said,” said Henderson.
He quipped: “It was obviously the right decision to go back hurdling, but part of me feels that all I’ve done is make My Tent [Or Yours] come second again.”
Fehily said he appreciated his second Champion Hurdle more, adding: “He’s just a very good horse. It was a great performance. It doesn’t matter to me that people are saying it wasn’t a vintage race.”
McManus praised Henderson’s decision to switch Buveur D’Air back to hurdling after a stint chasing.
“I just let him get on with it, he knows best,” he said. “I’m delighted with My Tent too, to finish second at four Festivals is a great training performance.”
Arkle scare for Altior
Henderson also tasted victory in the Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices’ Chase, as Altior ultimately justified his red-hot favouritism.
The 1/4 chance, ridden by Nico de Boinville, beat Cloudy Dream by six lengths, with Ordinary World third, but only after Charbel fell while leading at the penultimate hurdle.
Seventeen-year-old jockey Jack Kennedy and 25-/1 shot Labaik upstaged the fancied Melon in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.
It was the first of three winners for trainer Gordon Elliott, who also saw Apple’s Jade win the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle and 16/1 chance Tiger Roll scoop the JT McNamara National Hunt Chase.