Nicky Henderson will be praying Saturday’s meeting at Sandown beats the cold snap to allow Buveur D’Air to warm up for his Champion Hurdle hat-trick bid in the 888Sport Contenders Hurdle.
The JP McManus-owned eight-year-old has used this Listed contest as a stepping-stone to claiming the two-mile hurdling crown at Cheltenham in each of the last two seasons, beating three rivals as the 1-4 favourite in 2017 and slamming just a couple of opponents when a 1-16 shot 12 months ago.
With just four vastly inferior horses up against him this weekend, Buveur D’Air will once again be extremely prohibitive odds as he bids to bounce back from a shock defeat at the hands of stablemate Verdana Blue in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton on Boxing Day.
Reflecting on Buveur D’Air’s Kempton reverse, Henderson said: “Nothing significant came to light – he was no more sore than any other horse post-race and just got beaten by my flying machine (Verdana Blue).
“He does take plenty of work, that is why I want to run him – and the timing is good.”
Barry Geraghty has ridden Buveur D’Air on eight occasions and was unbeaten on the hurdling star before their Christmas eclipse.
“I rode him work on Saturday, and he went really well. I’m very happy going into it,” the jockey told Sky Sports Racing.
“Kempton was a shock. You don’t presume they’ll win, even at 1-4, but to get nabbed like that was disappointing.
“The winner performed on the day. Whether the track suited her better – you can make a case like that, but he got chinned on the day.
“I don’t think the mistake (three out) made a big impact, but he was beaten a short-head, so it probably made the difference between winning and losing.
“It was an uncharacteristic mistake, but you couldn’t say it cost him five lengths.”
Buveur D’Air is taken on by Colin Tizzard’s Vision Des Flos, the Evan Williams-trained De Dollar Man, Oliver Sherwood’s Rayvin Black and Roksana from Dan Skelton’s yard.
Henderson’s charge will aim next month to become the sixth horse to win three Champion Hurdles – and the first since another JP McManus-owned star, the mighty Istabraq.