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Cheltenham record makes Twiston-Davies the right Big Buck’s choice

The past weekend was an especially full-on one for owner Andy Stewart, with Saphir Du Rheu’s victory in the Lanzarote Hurdle at Kempton maintaining possibilities that he could have a four-pronged attack for the Ladbrokes World Hurdle.

Leading this assault on the staying hurdle division is Big Buck’s and the other key development was the announcement that it will be Sam Twiston-Davies that will be in the saddle for both the World Hurdle and the Cleeve Hurdle, which will be the horse’s only tune up for the Festival.

The current Ladbrokes World Hurdle betting has Big Buck’s as the 9/4 favourite, with Stewart’s other probable representatives Celestial Halo at 12/1 and Salubrious at 20/1.

Twiston-Davies was not the obvious choice for many, despite being called in by the trainer of Big Buck’s Paul Nicholls to ride the likes of Tidal Bay and Unioniste this season.

Nicholls has explained the decision, citing that long-term partner Ruby Walsh and the only other jockey to have ridden the horse over hurdles Tony McCoy were unable to commit to being available for the Cleeve Hurdle meeting.

This left four real alternatives for the ride – Nicholls’ main jockey Daryl Jacob, the regular rider of Silviniaco Conti Noel Fehily, stable second strong Nick Scholfield and Twiston-Davies.

Jacob was approached, but didn’t show full enthusiasm towards the ride, feeling that it was a “poisoned chalice”.

Meanwhile, Twiston-Davies’ Cheltenham record across the last five years may have had some bearing on the decision.

Only Walsh, Barry Geraghty, McCoy and Richard Johnson can celebrate a higher win ratio at the course in this period than Twiston-Davies’ 10-per-cent strike rate of 18 winners from 182 rides.

This percentage remains the same at the course too when simply considering his hurdles rides.

In comparison, Jacob, Fehily and Scholfield all have just a six-per-cent winning strike rate.

When looking solely at the Nicholls and Twiston-Davies partnership this season, further good reading can be found.

The pair have teamed up on 15 occasions for five winners, which includes three winners from five favourites and Bury Parade is counted as one of those which failed to triumph, when refusing to race after making it down to the start at Exeter.

One horse that Big Buck’s won’t have to contend with in the World Hurdle is defending champion Solwhit, who will miss Cheltenham because of a leg injury.

This has led to Annie Power being cut to 7/2 to triumph as the leading Irish challenger, despite original feelings that she was being aimed at the Champion Hurdle.