Nicky Henderson on frost alert with Buveur D'Air

Plans up in the air should Sandown fail to beat the weather

  • Thursday 31 January
  • News
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Nicky Henderson hopes the card at Sandown beats the weather on Saturday to allow Buveur D’Air to take his chance in the 888Sport Contenders Hurdle – his traditional prep race for the Cheltenham Festival.

No jumps racing has taken place in Britain since Tuesday due to freezing conditions – and with temperatures at the Esher track set to remain low for the next two nights, the Listed prize – which the dual Champion Hurdle hero has won for the past two years – hangs in the balance.

Henderson said: “I’ve been talking to JP (McManus, owner) and I’m very worried. We have a plan set out, then we walk into this – but it has happened to everyone, not just Buveur D’Air.

“We have our programme for him and we have got to start facing the facts that in all probability it might not happen and that we have to think again.

“I was talking to JP and about him not being in over in Ireland (Leopardstown) and I don’t regret that decision as it was not where we wanted to go.

“The reason he is not in Ireland is that it is an away game at this stage of proceedings and only preparation for Cheltenham. We don’t want to have a dust-up there, as we can do that in March.

“I know the Contenders Hurdle is not the most awe-inspiring race when you have got a 1-5 shot in it – the only person interested in it is probably me, not because we want to win a race but because I want the horse to have a race.

“I know Rayvin Black is going there so they will go a good gallop which is what I want for him. I’ll need to talk to the BHA (British Horseracing Authority) just to see if somewhere could find a slot for it.

“Maybe there is an Angel Gabriel that can come and rescue us.”

The Seven Barrows handler has not ruled out the possibility of sending Buveur D’Air to Kelso for the Timeform Morebattle Hurdle on February 14, a race which he has won in the past with the likes of Grade One winners Simonsig and Top Notch – but has also seen Zaynar beaten in at odds of 1-14.

Henderson added: “We are not keen on Wincanton for the Kingwell and we’ve always said that.

“We have used the Morebattle in the past and that is not out of the equation. We were thinking of sending We Have A Dream there, but we might have to move things around.

“That would give you around a month before Cheltenham and is the only other option. I’ve not discussed that with JP.

“Yes, he can have a racecourse gallop, but you are only halfway there with that. The perfect scenario remains to run on Saturday.”

Despite temperatures at Sandown reaching minus 7C on Wednesday night, clerk of the course Andrew Cooper has not given up hope of racing taking place at the weekend.

He said: “Today has been the first day this week that we would not have been able to race by the start of racing.

“We had a very sharp overnight frost which got down to minus seven which is by far the coldest night here of the year.

“We have seen improvements throughout the day, we are still not quite there but we are not far off.

“We had two snow risks and we have one tonight and our forecast says we could have one to two centimetres.

“We have still got quite a cold night Friday going into Saturday and we will take stock of the snow that falls tonight. There is a distinct possibility of an inspection on Saturday morning.

“We will take everything into account, but we have still got a chance of racing. It is far from a lost cause and we are hanging in there.”

Asked about the possibility of restaging the race should the meeting fall to the elements, BHA head of media Robin Mounsey said: “We wouldn’t normally look to reschedule Listed races and there are other opportunities in the race programme in the coming weeks.

“However, we’re always happy to speak to trainers or racecourses if there is a clear appetite to save a race and it is in the best interests of the sport.”

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