By Simon Jackson
Paul Nicholls has said that Big Buck’s is his best chance at the Cheltenham Festival this year, despite the four-time World Hurdle winner finishing third on his comeback in the Cleeve Hurdle.
The 11-year-old had been sidelined with a tendon injury since December 2012, soon after extending his unbeaten run to 18 with an emphatic victory in the Grade 2 Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury.
The gelding had earlier broken the record for successive victories over obstacles. But despite battling gamely on his return he was headed close to home under new jockey Sam Twiston-Davies, who has replaced Nicholls’ former stable jockey, Ruby Walsh, in the saddle.
Yet, speaking at an open day at his Manor Farm Stable in Ditcheat yesterday, the seven-time champion trainer expressed his satisfaction with Big Buck’s first run back and believes he has come on for the run.
“He came in late and we did all we could to get him ready for his first run,” said Nicholls of his charge who is currently best priced at 5-4 for the Ladbrokes World Hurdle.
“When they have had leg trouble, you do have to train them a bit with the handbrake on so he was always going to need the run.
“Sam rode him exactly how I wanted him to at Cheltenham. This horse wins because he’s a stayer and all he did that day was stay. Ruby [Walsh] rang me that evening and said he would have ridden the horse exactly the same way.
“Big Buck’s lost 10 kilos after Cheltenham and it tightened him up. He had a week off afterwards and there’s only one day we want him back to his best for.
“He’s a much better horse on decent ground so I hope it’s not too soft. He’s my best chance at the Festival this year.”
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