Buck's on top of the world
BIG Buck's will be back on the road to outdo the Kilkenny hurlers next year on the 'drive for five' after he claimed an incredible fourth consecutive World Hurdle at Cheltenham yesterday.
The racing superstar put any concerns to the kerb about his chances with what his trainer Paul Nicholls described afterwards as "probably a career-best performance".
A major drifter before the race, Big Buck's had to dig as deep as he ever did before when Andrew Lynch loomed with Voler La Vedette, but despite Lynch's absolute peach on her, nothing was to prevent Big Buck's from yet another World Hurdle success.
It was a clear sign of the appreciative crowd as Big Buck's and Ruby Walsh received the biggest reception of the week, yet Walsh admitted: "He was a very popular winner, yet not too popular with the punters as he was drifting in the betting!
"I suppose the way our (Paul Nicholls) horses were running, some doubt would enter your mind, but God, we were fairly silly to doubt this fella," Walsh admitted.
The jockey continued: "He's an amazing horse and they were all speed horses in the race this year, but none of them were ever going to stay anything like this lad. Thank God I have him."
Undoubtedly now a legend of horse racing, Big Buck's, who was also winning his 16th consecutive race, joined recent recruit Quevega in an elite group that has won at four consecutive Cheltenham Festivals.
"Hopefully he can come back here and win it a fifth," said Nicholls afterwards.
"He had a fight today but he just keeps galloping, he's wonderful.
"He's an awesome horse, the tactics were executed to perfection by Ruby."
While a tilt at Aintree and a possible 17th win on the bounce will now be strongly considered by connections, already it appears it is being favoured.
However owner Andy Stewart has ruled out bringing his horse across the Irish Sea for the Ladbrokes World Champion Stayers Hurdle at Punchestown at the end of April.
"He gets a bit edgy when he makes the eight mile trip from Ditcheat to Wincanton so unfortunately I think it is highly unlikely that he will go to Punchestown," he said.
"I am a supporter of Irish racing and I sent Le Roi Miguel to the Punchestown festival to win a Grade One and obviously Oslot over for the Galway Plate but it won't be a part of his (Big Buck's) plans."
Voler La Vedette's trainer Colm Murphy said: "Going to the last I thought we had a chance but in truth (Big Buck's) was always holding her, almost toying with her.
"She's unlucky to have run into a legend, but all being well we'll be back next year for another go."