Jockey Noel Fehily has heaped praise upon trainer Nicky Henderson after the duo's opening day success at the 2017 Cheltenham Festival.
Fehily's impressive victory aboard Buveur D'Air – a horse he rode before the 5-1 shot was bought by racing magnate JP McManus last year – on Tuesday (14 March) was his second Stan James Champion Hurdle triumph and ensured that Henderson became the most decorated trainer in the prestigious race's history. Runner-up My Tent Or Yours is also from the same stable.
"He [Henderson] is an absolutely wonderful trainer," Fehily, speaking on behalf of www.bet-bonuscode.co.uk, told IBTimes UK before a second-place finish aboard Neon Wolf in the Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle and Special Tiara's spectacular upset of red-hot favourite Douvan in the Queen Mother Champion Chase.
"You don't become the top all-time trainer at Cheltenham by accident, Nicky is superb. He always trains them so well for Cheltenham too, making sure that his whole team turn up fit and well."
Asked how Buveur D'Air compared to 2012's Paul Nicholls-trained champion Rock On Ruby, the veteran Irishman added: "He's quite a similar type of horse – a good jumper, traveller and stayer. They are both very good horses and top Champion hurdlers."
Buveur D'Air enjoyed success over fences at Aintree last year before reverting back to hurdles in the run up to Cheltenham. So where exactly does the six-year-old French-bred gelding's future lie?
"Obviously it's not my decision, but the way he performed yesterday I'd say there's a fairly good chance he'll stay over hurdles," Fehily, who handed McManus his 50th Cheltenham winner, said. "I'm sure connections will sit down and have a few conversations over the summer."
Fehily will be confident of yet more success tomorrow (16 March), when he rides favourite Unowhatimeanharry in the competitive Sun Bet Stayers' Hurdle.
"It's great that I'm on the favourite and that would suggest I have got the best chance of winning the race," he said. "Unowhatimeanharry is in the form of his life and he'll run a very big race. He hasn't run on ground this quick yet, so that's a bit of an unknown, but we'll run a huge race either way. As for the dangers, Ballyoptic and Cole Harden should go well on the ground."
Commenting on this year's festival atmosphere, he beamed: "Yesterday was absolutely buzzing. Probably the busiest and liveliest I can remember. I don't know the exact numbers, but the crowd looks like one of the biggest I've ever seen."