Nicky Henderson believes Buveur D’Air is still the horse to beat in the two-mile hurdle division.
The eight-year-old won the Champion Hurdle in 2017 and 2018, but his bid for a hat-trick at the Cheltenham Festival back in March ended when he fell at the third flight, with the ill-fated Espoir D’Allen going on to victory.
Buveur D’Air was beaten again when second to Supasundae in an Aintree Hurdle run in desperate weather, but reversed the form in the Punchestown Champion Hurdle in May.
Henderson thinks that form again sets the standard this term, although he points to Supreme winner Klassical Dream as a credible rival.
He said: “I thought he was very good at Punchestown, as he jumped with his usual slickness, and it was marvellous to finish the season on a good note.
“It was sad what happened at Cheltenham when we were trying to win a third Champion Hurdle, but these things happen.
“He is still probably the one they all have to beat on paper. There are some young horses coming through such as Klassical Dream, but it would be great if he could make it to Cheltenham again this year and win a third Champion Hurdle.”
Buveur D’Air has kicked off his campaign in the Betfair Fighting Fifth Hurdle for the last two years, with that Newcastle event the target once again.
Henderson added: “He has been to Newcastle for the last two years and has been brilliant both times.”
Stablemate Pentland Hills, who claimed Grade One juvenile events at Cheltenham and Aintree, is also entered for Henderson, but the handler has indicated he may have an alternative target.
Klassical Dream is one of three entries for Willie Mullins in the November 30 heat along with Sharjah and Saldier, while Evan Williams’ Silver Streak and the Phil Kirby-trained Lady Buttons also feature among 14 contenders.