Buveur D'Air teed up a possible pre-Cheltenham clash with Faugheen as he made the perfect return to action in easily landing the odds in the Unibet Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle.

Last season's Champion Hurdle hero went off the 1-6 favourite and Nicky Henderson's six-year-old promptly outclassed his four rivals.

Katgary and Mirsaale shared the early running, before Buveur D'Air jumped into the lead at the third-last flight and cantered to victory under a motionless Barry Geraghty.

Irving, two-time winner of the Grade One contest, was flattered by being only three and a half lengths behind in second place.

A delighted Henderson watched on from Newbury, where he said: "It was good and he did what he had to do. Anything else would have probably been disappointing. Thank goodness it is over and done with and hopefully it's onwards and upwards now.

"He had to do what he did to keep everyone happy. Under the circumstances it was great. He was fat the other day here at Newbury.

"I would have thought the Christmas Hurdle (at Kempton) will now be the plan."

Geraghty said: "He was very good. His jumping is just rapid.

"If you look over the years, the real Champion Hurdlers like Istabraq, Hurricane Fly, Hardy Eustace - they just bend their knees and take off. They gain ground and fill up their lungs because it's so natural and easy for them.

"I rode him work 10 days ago at Newbury and he worked nicely. He worked on Sunday morning and Nicky was buzzing about him and he was very happy with his weight, which was a good indication.

"He was the same weight going to Aintree at the end of last season. He holds his condition well through the season and you were fairly sure he was fairly close to being ready. He was in great shape and it was a good performance."

Frank Berry, racing manager to owner JP McManus, said: "That was very easy to watch. He jumped great and Barry said he felt fantastic.

"He handles that ground really well which is unusual for a Champion Hurdler, but he goes through it great.
"To say he's won two over fences, he's such a good hurdler, so quick.

"It will probably be Kempton (Christmas Hurdle) next, where else is there to go?"

He added: "I know Faugheen might come, as he has done in the past, but there are other options in Ireland for him without having to travel before Cheltenham. We'll have to see how everything is."

The Willie Mullins-trained Faugheen, the 2015 two-mile king at Cheltenham, impressed at Punchestown recently on his comeback from injury and has Kempton and Leopardstown as his options at Christmas.

Geraghty added: "Faugheen looked really good at Punchestown, but this horse feels more physical this year than last year. I relish the challenge. He's only six going on seven so really he should still be getting better.

"It felt like he is, he's physically stronger this year, he feels sharper, too.

"Faugheen is obviously very good, too, but I'd be looking forward to it (meeting at Kempton), we'd relish the challenge."