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Buck's is evens to defend title

Bookmakers are not underestimating Big Buck's claiming an unbeatable fourth Ladbrokes World Hurdle next year after another immense winning performance yesterday.

Now the first to ever win the staying title three times in a row, he is just even-money with the sponsors to make it a quadruple in 12 months time.

The champion's showdown with Grands Crus was one of the most talked-about issues of this year's Cheltenham Festival and the match materialised approaching the final flight, but the 10/11 favourite evaded the latest pretender to his crown in his own inimitable style.

Jockey Ruby Walsh had the added pressure of dropping his whip just before the last, but his mount absorbed everything Tom Scudamore and Grands Crus threw at him and was in command by a length and three-quarters as he passed the post.



Unbeatable

"He is, especially when he runs in races like at Newbury, as close in horseracing as it is to buying money if you back him," said Walsh.

"I know today was a different ball game at Cheltenham with difficult horses like Grands Crus and Mourad (third) but he is as close to unbeatable as a jump horse can be. He's like (American legend) Cigar on the Flat, just one of those great horses.

"Over hurdles he's just prolific -- he's so much better than the others.

Walsh added: "He has his quirks -- when he's in front he idles.

"They didn't go that quick in front but it didn't bother me.

"Once we got racing and I knew it wasn't going to be a sprint, I was happy. I had loads of horse left.

"He's just different, he has so much class as you're riding a Champion Hurdle-Gold Cup horse in a stayers' hurdle."

Big Buck's was only sent over hurdles as an afterthought but is now unbeaten in 11 straight starts over timber.

Trainer Paul Nicholls said: "I was really nervous today, as it's not as if everything was in his favour.

"We knew they were unlikely to go a good pace and the ground was a bit quick, but he's a real champion.

"He's a bit of a big kid but he's a real racehorse.

"He's won three now and I'd say he'll never see a fence again."

It was a disappointment for Grands Crus' connections after his scintillating victory at the course earlier in the year, although he was two and three-quarter lengths in front of Mourad. "He has run the race of his life," said trainer David Pipe.

"Big Buck's is the best staying hurdler there's been for years and we gave him a race, so we can't be disappointed with that.

"We'll wait and see what we do now."