All good things must come to an end. And so it was on Boxing Day at Kempton, where Buveur D’Air failed to add a twelfth to his unbeaten run, which stretched back to April 2016.
On a day when no favourite obliged, Nicky Henderson’s seven year old was the shortest price of them all. Starting at 1/4, there was nothing to suppose this would be anything other than a stepping stone to retaining the Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. It was not only a surprise he got beaten, but ironic he should be chinned on the line by a stable companion in the form of Verdana Blue.
You could put it down to the mistake three from home, conceding 7lb to the winner or any number of factors, but frankly you could do a PhD on the subject and still be done the wiser. The reality is the photograph proves the supreme 2 mile hurdler lost by a short head.
Whilst winning jockey Nico de Boinville is never one to wear his heart on his sleeve, if anything looked thoroughly miserable in victory, perhaps thinking this wasn’t the script his boss had drafted. As one of the owners, Charlie Parker, said: “ I know the Trainer and jockey aren’t very happy as they think the’ve lost their jobs – but we’re very happy”.
One must never begrudge a horse or its connections a win, but Verdana Blue is being aimed at an all weather race at Lingfield on Good Friday, with one eye on the Melbourne Cup. Not a mention of Cheltenham. Also, if the bookies are right Buveur D’Air is a certainty to make it a hat trick of Champion Hurdle titles at March’s Festival. All of which leaves me feeling a bit empty about the defeat: I had in my mind that when the inevitable came it would be against a Prince who was a worthy inheritor of the throne and we could shout “The King is dead, long live the King”. As things stand Buveur D’Air had his Crown tilted a bit at Kempton, but looks unlikely to be deposed.