Easy win for Big Buck’s at Newbury
Saturday 1 December 2012
1 Big Buck's (R Walsh) 1-12 Fav
2 Reve De Sivola (D Jacob) 33-1
3 Fox Appeal (D Costello) 12-1
By Geoffrey Riddle
Big Buck’s is no stranger to the record books and the four-time World Hurdle winner set another at the Racecourse Newbury by winning a fourth Long Distance Hurdle on Saturday.
The nine-year-old, one of four 2012 Cheltenham Festival winners in action across the country, had drawn level with Inglis Drever last year with his third successive victory and he had too much for Reve De Sivola in the Grade 2 event, sponsored by Sportingbet.
It was Big Buck’s 18th consecutive success and having picked up the £19,932 for finishing ahead of his three rivals he remains on course for a momentous fifth World Hurdle procession back at Prestbury Park in four months.
Before the race both trainer Paul Nicholls and jockey Ruby Walsh were eager to underline that the Stewart family’s prized asset was in the bosom of health, and so it proved with a resounding nine-length win.
“My wife has just told me that she has changed my flight to the 23rd to get back to Barbados, so it is the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot in three weeks and I shall be there,” owner Andy Stewart confirmed the intended target for the winner.
Ladbrokes cut Big Buck's to 4-5 for an unprecedented fifth World Hurdle, although William Hill dangled the carrot to punters by continuing to offer 6-5. The firm did change their quote of 2-1 to remain unbeaten throughout the season to 7-4, however, after Nicholls assured the Newbury crowd that a well-trodden path would be followed.
“Five Dream helped him out early on and that’s because there was nothing in the race. The better the race the better he is,” the Ditcheat trainer said.
“Probably everyone will keep away from him only to have a go at him at Cheltenham but we can keep ticking away.
“Everything slots in to his own place and he is doing what he is best at. People say he should have other challenges but he can’t do much more than what Frankel did on the Flat and run in the right races.
“One day he will get beat, but at the moment he is in really good shape and it will take something special to beat him. I used to say he would get himself beat but he is more reliable now.
“There is a Grade 1 at Aintree that he is good at, too. If there is a race for him why change anything? Like Kauto, after he had won a Gold Cup and a King George you wouldn’t just switch him back in trip, you stick to the programme.
“He has a great following, he is good for racing and people like to see him."
This time four years ago Big Buck’s was sent off the 5-1 favourite for the Hennessy Gold Cup, but unseated Sam Thomas in a landmark moment. It heralded the decision to revert back to the smaller obstacles over which Big Buck’s has now extended his record beyond Sir Ken’s 16 wins that had stood for 59 years.
It was Big Buck’s first race since his fluid seven-length cakewalk in the Liverpool Hurdle at Aintree in April and after a racecourse gallop at Exeter he was sent off at 1-12.
It was the shortest price in his 37-race career, having traded at 1-8 in this race 12 months ago, having rewarded odds-on traders at 2-7 two seasons ago and 2-5 for his maiden victory in the race.
“There no such thing as a certainty, but that was incredible and compared to when he galloped at Exeter the other day and as soon as walked on to the track to line-up he came alive,” Walsh said. “He got a bit close to the first two but after that he was brilliant. From the time we quickened up from the cross fence he was just coasting.”
Big Buck’s faced just three rivals, the smallest field he had faced for five years and in the race itself since 1990. As Nicholls had stated before the race, Big Buck’s took control of proceedings from the off, with Walsh being kept company at the front by Ryan Mahon on Five Dream.
Just before the second last, Dougie Costello took Fox Appeal to the stands’ side in order to challenge, much as Voler La Vedette had done at Cheltenham in March, but by then Big Buck’s was gone and there was no catching him.