The Big Question: Can Big Buck’s win a fifth World Hurdle?
Trainer Paul Nicholls suffered a setback on the opening day with the disappointing run of Irving in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. He still has several big guns to fire this week including Silviniaco Conti in the Gold Cup and Calipto in the Triumph Hurdle.
His big hope for Thursday is Big Buck’s who leads a four-pronged attack by the stable on the World Hurdle. Last year’s runner-up Celestial Halo and the consistent Zarkandar and Salubrious make up the Ditcheat quartet.
Big Buck’s winning sequence of 18 consecutive races finally came to an end in the Cleeve Hurdle when he was just run out of in the closing stages by Knockara Beau and At Fishers Cross. The race sparked controversy with many pundits feeling that Sam Twiston-Davies hit the front too soon on a horse that had been off the course for a lengthy period.
Nicholls was quick to defend his jockey and is convinced that it was a combination of the heavy ground and race fitness. He believes that the ground from the last flight was barely fit for racing and felt that Big Buck’s may well have held on but for that.
With three other stable representatives, Twiston-Davies is unlikely to have any concerns over a lack of pace on Thursday. His big market rival Annie Power is racing over the three-mile trip for the first time and Ruby Walsh will be keen to anchor the mare at the rear of the field early on.
At Fishers Cross ran his best race of the season in the Cleeve Hurdle but would surely have preferred a bit more give in the ground. The same applies to impressive Naas winner Rule The World.
Twiston-Davies was the victim of bad luck on Tuesday when The New One was stopped in his tracks by the fatal fall of Our Conor in the Champion Hurdle. He has been praised for resisting the temptation to rush his mount back into the race and he eventually grabbed third place.
His game plan for the World Hurdle must be to sit close to the pace to make the most of his horse’s stamina. With Walsh likely to be stalking him on Annie Power, we could be in for a classic.