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Cheltenham Saturday Review: Brain Powers Into Champion Hurdle Picture

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Despite winning on his first two starts over fences in December 2016 the Nicky Henderson-trained Buveur D’Air failed to impress everyone as a potential top class chaser, resulting in the Seven Barrows handler sending the son of Crillon back over the smaller obstacles, the result of which is an unbeaten run of eight victories including a couple of Champion Hurdles.

Stablemate Brain Power may never attain such lofty heights but the talented seven-year-old looks like following a similar path after winning Saturday’s Unibet International Hurdle at Cheltenham, the gelding’s first outing back over hurdles since finishing fifth in the Punchestown Champion Hurdle back in April 2017.

The winner of just one of his six starts over fences Brain Power had become somewhat frustrating for owner Michael Buckley, completing the course on only three occasions. A far from fluent round of jumping when beaten over fifteen lengths behind Sceau Royal at Prestbury Park last month causing connections to try their luck once again over hurdles with the son of Kalanisi, a decision which proved justified as the mount of Nico de Boinville showed far too much pace for his seven rivals in the Grade 2 contest.

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A length and three quarter victory over the admirable but seemingly exposed Silver Streak is a long way from stable companion and Champion Hurdle odds-on favourite Buveur D’Air’s comprehensive Fighting Fifth performance.

But at the 25-1 available with several bookmakers including Ladbrokes and Betfred Brain Power looks fair each-way value for the big one on Tuesday 12th March. The same can not be said of the 33-1 quoted about the bitterly disappointing Summerville Boy while the race ended on a sad note with the expected decision to retire the much-loved The New One who had to be pulled up after making the early running.

The major handicap of the day – the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup – was won by top weight Frodon who, in the hands of rising star Bryony Frost, jumped his rivals ragged with only the Venetia Williams-trained Cepage able to mount any kind of a challenge until a mistake at the second-last by Charlie Deutsch’s mount settled the issue. The Ryanair at the festival is the long-term aim for the winner with the 14-1 offered by Paddy Power and Betfred the best available.

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