Epatante’s trainer Nicky Henderson making plans for Buveur D’Air

He may be the forgotten horse as far as the betting is concerned, but Nicky Henderson is hopeful dethroned Champion Hurdle king Buveur D'Air will be ready for battle at Cheltenham next March.

The dual winner of the Unibet-backed contest has not raced for 12 months, after a wooden splinter went through his hoof in the Betfair Fighting Fifth Hurdle.

Stablemate Epatante took The Festival's Tuesday two-mile showpiece eight months ago and is primed for her reappearance in Saturday's Grade 1 at Newcastle.

But the race sponsor's 3-1 favourite to retain her crown will be facing opposition from her own camp, as long as he continues to show all of the right signs.

"He (Buveur D'Air) has used the Contenders Hurdle at Sandown (as his Cheltenham warm-up) for the last couple of years which he has won," Henderson said.

"It's barely a Listed race, but it's at the right time at the right place – it slots in very well.

"So it's one of the obvious races (in which) Buveur D'Air could reappear, although he would be ready before that."

Aidan Coleman is due to school Epatante over five hurdles at Henderson's Seven Barrows stable on Tuesday morning.

The trainer plans to follow the same route as last year, with a trip to Kempton over Christmas in the pipeline – and then a break in the schedule before her main spring assignment.

Henderson said she "possibly" would have to improve to beat Buveur D'Air, available at 25-1 in ante-post lists, at Cheltenham.

"He was a very very good horse wasn't he?" he added.

"And he was unlucky not to complete his Champion Hurdle hat-trick when he fell.

"So life hasn't always been that easy for him, he has been very good but he has had his blips.

"Then he came back that year and he was very very good in Ireland at Punchestown at the end of the day.

"So it was just very unlucky what happened last year.

"But the horse is in great form."

Source: Read Full Article