The famous Cheltenham roar was heard in full force as Big Buck’s landed over the last leading the Cleeve Hurdle on Saturday, only for the exuberant noise to be replaced by worried groans as two passed him in the final stages.
It was a first appearance for the four-time World Hurdle victor since serious injury wiped out his involvement in much of the 2012/13 season, and his third-place finish ended an 18-race-long winning streak.
However, it wasn’t all doom and gloom as far as his trainer Paul Nicholls was concerned, who gushed effusively over the 11-year-old’s performance.
“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,” Nicholls said.
The showing hasn’t deterred Ladbrokes either, who keep Big Buck’s as the 5/4 favourite to win the World Hurdle at Cheltenham this year, from Annie Power at 3/1, who made all quite easily at Doncaster on the same day for her 10th straight win.
For Knockara Beau, the 66/1 winner of the Cleeve, it is too late to be entered into the World Hurdle, for which his victory is a major trial. However, a run at the Cheltenham Gold Cup, in which he was a 66/1 sixth in 2012, looks likely. He’s priced at 50/1 this time around following his latest run.
The Tony McCoy-ridden At Fishers Cross will surely be lining up for another crack at Big Buck’s in the World Hurdle, and pipped him into second on Saturday, but still remains as the 7/1 outsider for the Ladbrokes-sponsored Festival race.
With a tough run now under Big Buck’s belt , it seems a second Festival win for J P McManus’ horse will elude him.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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