Cheltenham Festival: Serious challenge awaits Altior in Queen Mother Champion Chase

Cheltenham Festival opened with a bang on Tuesday and it was a good one for the bookmakers as Buveur d'Air won the day's big race, the Champion Hurdle, and another short-priced favourite, Footpad, won the Arkle.

Trainer Nicky Henderson expressed relief after Buveur D'Air banished nagging doubt over his ability to win under pressure by retaining his Champion Hurdle title at the Cheltenham Festival.

The race was run at a strong gallop throughout its two miles before the first two home asserted their authority from three hurdles from home.

It was nip and tuck all the way to the line but it Buveur D'Air who just pulled out more, winning the contest by a neck to deliver a seventh Champion Hurdle to the race's most successful trainer.

"While the Grand National remains the undisputed champion when it comes to bets placed on a single race, Cheltenham is the most popular four days of betting for horse racing fans".

"They were two very fearless horses, with two courageous jockeys".

"He's not had a battle this year but this was a proper race and that showed his class". He is a really good young horse, he did what he had to today.

"I'm just trying to keep up with Nicky", he joked.

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Rather boringly, Elliott's top boy for the big occasion is now going for the same race he won previous year, the Cross Country Chase (4.10), and I fancy him to go well again when it matters before going on to Aintree for the Grand National, in which he finished runner-up last April.

"I'm delighted for everyone, especially Barry".

It is very likely that we haven't seen the last of the fatalities from this year's festival, as people are expecting the final count to repeat the horrors of the last few editions.

"I thought we had it all to do after the last, but I was hoping that Barry's strength might get us through".

"Last year we came here more in hope, and this time there were expectations, although I was anxious about the ground", said owner JP McManus.

"This hasn't been easy and yesterday was as bad as it gets", Henderson said.

Racing fans from the Emerald Isle are also playing for much higher stakes than their United Kingdom counterparts. He dug deep and he scrapped and I think he's proved himself an even better horse.

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