Buveur D'Air back at Seven Barrows as Henderson tentatively plots winter path

Nicky Henderson has revealed two-time Champion Hurdle winner Buveur D'Air is back at Seven Barrows after an extended absence.

The JP McManus-owned nine-year-old missed the majority of last season after suffering a freak injury during the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle in November, a race in which he finished a brave second to Cornerstone Lad.

Buveur D'Air underwent surgery following the Grade 1 contest after returning from the race with a splinter of wood in his foot, ruling him out of the remainder of last season and forcing Henderson to reshuffle his Champion Hurdle pack.

It was a decision which paid dividends when Epatante graduated to the top level, winning the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton and then the Champion Hurdle in March at the Cheltenham Festival.

Writing in his Unibet column, Henderson said: "We were delighted to welcome Buveur D’Air back to Seven Barrows yesterday morning and the team at Martinstown have done a tremendous job because he looks absolutely fantastic and it’s lovely to see his familiar face looking out over the stable door again.

"He’s been doing plenty of trotting on the grass at JP’s place where they made him a special shoe to help through this current stage and the head lads in Ireland have kept us well up to date with his progress by sending pictures and videos throughout his time there. He looks fabulous and is now ready to step up his training to the next level.

"We certainly won’t be rushing him and it will be a very steady process but Hannah knows him better than any of us so we’ll take it step by step and gradually build him back up towards attempting to win a third Unibet Champion Hurdle."

Henderson does not expect Buveur D'Air to be out in the early part of the season but is already pondering targets for him and Epatante, with the trainer anticipating headaches about how to keep the talented pair apart.

He said: "I must admit I haven’t told him about Epatante yet because when he disappeared from the scene nobody had even heard of her, she hadn’t even won the Christmas Hurdle!

"I imagine the plan for her would be up to Newcastle for the Fighting Fifth followed by Kempton on Boxing Day, whereas Buveur D’Air is obviously much further behind than the rest of the squad and will take a lot more time so won’t be out in the early part of the season. 

"Barring mishap, we’d be looking at races like the Unibet International at Cheltenham and then we’ll probably be getting headaches trying to keep them apart but it’s a nice problem to have, albeit all a long way away and we will take each day as it comes."