Nicky Henderson took the plaudits on day one of the Cheltenham Festival as he saddled Altior and Buveur D’Air to success in the Arkle Chase and Champion Hurdle respectively.
Facile 2016 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winner Altior was a warm order for the two-mile chase but duly obliged at odds of 2/7 under Nico de Boinville by six lengths.
Buveur D’Air also impressed for the Seven Barrows maestro with a comfortable four and a half-lengths victory in the two-mile showpiece, which provided Henderson with his 57th winner at the Cheltenham Festival and also made the Lambourn handler the most successful trainer of all time in the Stan James Champion Hurdle with six wins, whilst giving owner J P McManus his 50th Festival winner.
A delighted Henderson said:
I lost his novice chase season by going back hurdling and if I had got that wrong, it would have looked a very silly decision but the great thing about J P McManus and his team is they are a great team.
There is a pretty strong board behind the company with J P as the chairman and they are just great to train for. When I said hurdling was what I wanted to do, they were totally behind it and that was great and ever since then, that has been the plan.
Other highlights included Un Temps Pour Tout becoming only the third horse to win the Ultima Handicap Chase twice under a fine ride by Tom Scudamore, with the gelding also recording back-to-back successes in the race, whilst Gordon Elliott’s Labaik, who has refused to race four times in the last 12 months, was a 25/1 winner of the opening race of the Festival, the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.
Apple’s Jade also upset the odds by beating Rich Ricci’s Vroum Vroum Mag and Limini in the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle.