Big Buck's: general 5-2 favourite for the World HurdlePICTURE: Getty Images
Nicholls: Big Buck’s
still the one to beat
BIG BUCK'S remains the one to beat in the Ladbrokes World Hurdle, according to trainer Paul Nicholls, who likened the return of his star staying hurdler to the reappearance of stablemate Silviniaco Conti - who improved from third in the Betfair Chase to overturn form with Cue Card in the King George.
Nicholls also absolved the 11-year-old's first-time rider Sam Twiston-Davies of any responsibility for the ending of an unbeaten sequence that had lasted for five years after Big Buck's suffered his first defeat over hurdles in 19 starts in the Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham on Saturday.
Nicholls revealed the four-time Ladbrokes World Hurdle winner had returned with no physical issues after finishing just over three-quarters of a length third to Knockara Beau and At Fishers Cross, and said his only shortcoming at Cheltenham was lack of race fitness. Big Buck's, who was overhauled in the final 50 yards having led three out, had been out of action since December 2012 because of a tendon injury.
"My view is he travelled well, jumped well, quickened well into the last and got tired halfway up the run-in on what was the worst ground on the track, which he was entitled to," said Nicholls.
"He ran just how he did against Voler La Vedette in the last World Hurdle he won, admittedly on better ground. That day he was race-fit and he galloped to the line. Saturday he looked like he was going to but he got tired.
"Sam rode him as we discussed. We thought Reve De Sivola might make it and I said if there was no pace don't be afraid to bowl along. We had made all on him at Newbury [in December 2012].
"No matter how much you do at home with them, just to get them to run at that level is a positive. We almost expect too much of them nowadays after they've been off a while."
Big Buck's is general 5-2 favourite for the World Hurdle but just 5-4 with Ladbrokes to reclaim the title he was unable to defend a year ago.
Read more from Paul Nicholls in Monday's Racing Post - also available on your iPad.