Buveur D’Air wants to go back and claim a second victory in the Betway Aintree Hurdle.
It’s been four years since the two-time hero Champion Hurdle won the first year of Thursday’s two and a half miles – and he finished second behind Supasundae in the last race in 2019.
However, Air Drinker has endured a far from straightforward few years since – with an abnormal hoof injury suffered during Fighting Fifth in Newcastle later that year, keeping him on the sidelines until his return to Haydock in January.
After being beaten by the Navajo Pass there, Connections ultimately chose not to bid for a third Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham last month – decision coach Nicky Henderson is hoping it pays off in Merseyside.
He said: “He came from Haydock. We had a little hiccup before Cheltenham, which helped us make the decision to come here.
“I think the extra half mile isn’t an unnatural thing to do when you’re 10.”
The Seven Barrows handler says it’s a triumph in itself that Air Drinker was able to get back on the track following a setback he suffered in the Northeast nearly 18 months ago.
He added: “It was a weird thing that happened to him in Newcastle – the photograph of that piece of wood sticking out of his hoof was absolutely terrifying.
“Our vets here and the vets in Ireland have done an incredible job. To be honest it’s a miracle he’s running again.
“Winning a race like this and picking up one is always a great satisfaction to you.”
Among the rivals of Air Drinker, Olly Murphy’s Brewin’upastorm and Paul Nicholls coached McFabulous revive their rivalry after finishing first and second in the National Spirit Hurdle at Fontwell in February.
Murphy said, “It was a long term plan, and two and a half miles on good ground is his ideal conditions.
“It sounds very competitive, but he’s going in the form of his life – and fingers crossed he’s got really good luck in every way.”
Nicholls is convinced McFabulous can get revenge, telling Betfair: “Things didn’t go down to Fontwell, where the track was a bit tight for him and he got caught in a pocket at a crucial time.
“He also gave the winner 6 pounds, which is very good that day.
“McFabulous will be much happier on a galloping track like Aintree and enjoy the drying pitch. Hopefully he will be doing great.”
Abacadabras and Jason The Militant are two main Irish candidates.
Denise Foster’s Abacadabras was one of the first to drop into the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham, while Jason The Militant, trained by Henry de Bromhead, was last seen landing the rescheduled Red Mills Trial Hurdle at Fairyhouse in February.
Foster said: “Abacadabras looks amazing right now – and I’m looking forward to it, definitely.
“It’s an open race, and I think he would be one of the horses I would look forward to the most (this week).”
Three-time first-year winner Song For Someone (Tom Symonds) and Christmas Hurdle hero Silver Streak (Evan Williams), who is the highest rated horse in the field, also feature in an 11-man field.