Buveur D'Air and Davy Russell
© Photo Healy Racing
Davy Russell successfully deputised for Mark Walsh as Buveur D’Air returned to something like his best to land the Betdaq Punchestown Champion Hurdle.
Walsh was sidelined with a suspected fractured right tibia after a fall earlier on the card but Russell made his first ride on J P McManus’ gelding a memorable one with a convincing victory.
The 2/1 joint favourite cruised into contention approaching the straight, and quickened to the front when asked for an effort by Russell before the last.
The Nicky Henderson-trained eight-year-old stayed on powerfully on the run-in to score by two and a half lengths.
Supasundae never really travelled that well but kept on best in the closing stages to fill the runner-up spot, with Wicklow Brave another length and a quarter away in third.
The other 2/1 joint favourite Apple’s Jade could find no extra in the straight finishing fifth, while Melon (last of the seven runners) was beaten when making a mistake at the last.
Henderson said, “It’s great to see him finish the year back to his absolute best. He started the year in the Fighting Fifth and everyone thought he was going to be unbeatable, and so did I. Then we went and beat him with Verdana Blue of our own which was a bit of a shock, and then he went and fell in the Champion Hurdle which knocked him sideways a bit.
“It was a good race in Liverpool when Supasundae beat us, and I just said to Jessie that I hope she feeds us tonight!
“It was a proper race which suits him. Davy was always going to suit the horse as he lets them get on with it.
“We can go to the summer now and look forward to next year. He’s the one that they all have to beat again.”
Russell said, “I bumped into Frank (Berry) and said was he looking for someone and he said yeah. He just had to confirm with the boss (JP).
“Sure, you’re going around every day of the week and there are spares flying and you don’t want to ride any of them! Then you get a spare like him, a dual Champion Hurdle winner. The game is so fickle.
“Look, it could be my turn tomorrow. Unfortunate for Mark, he’s a fantastic rider. Hopefully his injury isn’t too bad.
"I'm delighted to have gotten the opportunity to ride him. Obviously I've been lucky to get the opportunity to ride for Nicky Henderson over the last couple of years and you don't really realise the master he is until you ride for him.
“He was very confident in the horse today so we all grew in confidence with that behind us.
“Obviously these are big days and we need to cherish them. It's great to get the opportunity to ride these very good horses. There are not many Buveur D'airs around and I'm just really really proud to have gotten the opportunity to ride him.”
Paddy Power and Betfair both cut Buveur D'Air into 8/1 (from 10/1) to regain his Champion Hurdle crown at Cheltenham next year.