Can Buveur D’Air win a third Champion Hurdle?

Cheltenham Champion Hurdle 2018

Set up to be one of, if not the race of the week, our Champion Hurdle tips guide you through Tuesday’s big race. Reigning champion Buveur D’Air will be bidding to join an elite club of just five others to win three Champion Hurdles, but in the shape of Apple’s Jade, Laurina and co, he faces his stiffest test in this contest to date.

How does he match up to other triple winners?

Just five horses have managed to claim the prestigious hurdling event on three occasions, and it just so happens that Buveur D’Air’s trainer, Nicky Henderson, trained See You Then to do just that between 1985 and 1987, so the Champion Trainer knows exactly what it takes. To compare the two across generations is near impossible, but what we do know is that their handler is exceptional at priming them for the big day.

Istabraq is the most recent triple winner of the Champion Hurdle, wearing the famous green and gold silks of JP McManus that have also been carried into the winners enclosure by Buveur D’Air.

Is he underrated?

Despite winning the past two Champion Hurdles and losing just two of his fourteen races over hurdles, many are still quite quick to crab Buveur D’Air. Granted the calibre of horses he’s been beating and distance he has put between them and himself may not be of the highest order, but at the end of the day you can only beat what’s in front of you.

The form of last seasons Champion Hurdle has taken a few hits, with the runner-up Melon being soundly beaten on both starts this campaign. Buveur D’Air was beaten by stablemate Verdana Blue at Kempton on Boxing Day, but he didn’t have ideal conditions there and he made a significant error three flights from home.

Regardless of the opposition, he has won 80% of his hurdling starts with seven victories coming in Grade 1 company. Whatever way you look at it, that’s impressive and he still doesn’t get the credit he deserves.

Can he make it three?

Without doubt the sternest test he’s faced in the Champion Hurdle so far. Apple’s Jade has been imperious in winning all four starts this season by a combined 73 lengths and Buveur D’Air will have to be at his very best to reel her in.

Laurina is the unknown quantity in the line-up. She’s never raced against a Gelding but has been beating her own sex without breaking sweat. It cannot be underestimated how much of a step up this contest is though, to put it in perspective, the highest rated horse she has faced has a rating of 147, Buveur D’Air is rated 172.

Other horses such as Sharjah, who is a dual Grade 1 winner this campaign and last years runner up Melon will likely provide fierce challenges as well.

Legacy on the line

If Buveur D’Air was to go on and win his third Champion Hurdle, he will go down in history and cement his legacy as a top, top hurdler. But if he goes down on his sword with no excuses, then he may be classed as fortunate enough to have been in the right place at the right time for two years of a sub-standard two mile hurdling division.

It’s make or break in the biggest day of Buveur D’Air’s career.

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