Buveur D'Air toughs it out to cling on to title

The crowds begin to descend on the race track for the Cheltenham Festival on Monday

The crowds begin to descend on the race track for the Cheltenham Festival on Monday

Altior, last year's Arkle victor and unbeaten from seven starts, has at times been nearly as imperious as his older rival, but he, too, has hardly had an ideal preparation this time, with his breathing operation and recent alarm, although it has to be said he looked pretty much as good as ever when beating Politologue on his comeback at Newbury last month. I think he did get headed but Barry said he was never anxious as he thought he would always get there.

The talented novice already had a massive reputation heading into the race and Walsh believes he has all the quality to go on to win bigger prizes, but remained coy on his future Gold Cup chances.

Supasundae can claim his second Cheltenham Festival success in a fascinating renewal of the Sun Bets Stayers' Hurdle. He's a great-looking horse and I'd love to cheer Bryony Frost home.

"He didn't blow up, but he had a blow afterwards".

"I was concerned after they turned in, but the further up the straight I was going, the happier I was going, and I knew I could let Buveur D'Air pop the last and fill up in the process. The first big race we ever won was the Champion Hurdle in the See You Then days", said Henderson. The ground made it the ultimate test.

"I think opinion is probably split on whether his last run was a good run or a bad run, given we were getting weight from Our Duke, but I think people forget Our Duke won an Irish National by 14 lengths". I've been hugely impressed by BLACKBOW (IRE), who won the best bumper of the season when beating a classy field chockful of former winners at Leopardstown's Dublin Festival on February 3.

With conditions set to be testing this will take some getting and I'll be favouring the battle hardened horses over some of the more lightly raced ones at the top of the market.

But Buveur D'Air righted the ship for Britain's champion trainer after a desperate overhauling of the gallant Melon by a neck in the nick of time. I was trying to save as much as I could off the turn in and then go for him as late as possible.

"We didn't plan on that mistake, the first one down the back, but it hasn't done my heart any good". It was a proper race and the runner-up put it up.

"We were anxious last week with the snow that it might even have been cancelled but I think it's going to be busier than ever", he said.

Yet the coronation of last year's Arkle Trophy victor is no formality after Nico de Boinville's mount was found to be slightly lame with an infected foot on Monday morning. "He really dug deep and was a scrapper today".