Henderson plans hard graft for Buveur in build up to title defence

It is the time of year when horses get wrapped up in cotton wool for the Cheltenham Festival, but after Buveur D'Air came through his Unibet Champion Hurdle audition in the expected no-fuss fashion trainer Nicky Henderson was keen to stress it would be a case of work, work and more work for the seven-year-old.

Owned by JP McManus and ridden by Barry Geraghty, Buveur D'Air landed the Contenders Hurdle 12 months ago before capturing hurdling's biggest prize, and he remains odds-on to retain his Cheltenham crown at next month's festival.

Facing just two rivals in the Betfred-backed Sandown contest on Saturday, the 1-16 shot led from the off and never looked like losing even if he had to be shaken up late by Geraghty as John Constable threatened to make a race of it.

"It's job done, but he does need a huge amount of work, so it's not really job done," said Henderson, who last spring won a record sixth Champion Hurdle with Buveur D'Air.

"That's got that thing out of the way, but you'd nearly like something a bit more aggressive for him.

"He's got to keep working and I wouldn't rule out him having a canter round Kempton or something like that nearer the time."

He continued: "I was a bit worried he'd be keen in front, but he was nice and relaxed and loved the ground, and he's had a nice time.

"That's fine, but you need to keep on top of him. We know here we are and know the timing - he has to keep at it. He's got to be a very burly horse and like a lot of us puts on weight very easily."

Henderson added: "He loves that ground. The one thing that would frighten you is good to firm ground."