Ascot: Big Buck’s looms large as stayers cross swords

 

While At Fishers Cross and Reve De Sivola do battle for the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot today, one cannot get away from the sense that the most significant action in their staying hurdlers’ category took place in a training spin at Exeter on Thursday.

Big Buck’s, winner of the World Hurdle four times in a row and unbeaten in 18 consecutive races before Paul Nicholls, his trainer, discovered the hint of a tendon injury last winter and immediately laid him off, is almost back.

A pleasing gallop might not sound much to get excited about, but Big Buck’s was so superior to anything else in his area of expertise when we last saw him it still sends out a warning to those with designs on his crown at Cheltenham in March that they are, once again, most likely to be wasting their time.

The Nicholls camp is extremely upbeat, but we will know better whether Big Buck’s, rising 11, is still king when he returns to serious action in the Cleeve Hurdle at Prestbury Park next month.

At Fishers Cross was meant to be the new champion in waiting, but the jury is out after an awkward blunder put paid to his challenge to the talented but exposed Celestial Halo and Reve De Sivola at Newbury last month.

Perhaps it was just a one-off aberration and he will learn from it, but it did come when the heat was being turned up and there is a suspicion that Rebecca Curtis’s six-year-old may not yet be ready to handle the old guard second string, let alone Big Buck’s.

Celestial Halo misses today’s race with a foot injury, but Reve De Sivola (2.25 Ascot), a wide-margin winner of this contest last year and in his element on the testing  surface he will again encounter, also has the stuff to see off his younger rival.

Chatterbox caught the eye on his seasonal return and is very much one for the shortlist in the big betting heat, The Ladbroke, but the most significant clue to this always fiendish puzzle was perhaps provided at Cheltenham last month when Dell’ Arca won the Greatwood Hurdle, with Flaxen Flare back in fourth. Dell’ Arca, a €280,000 (£234,000) purchase from France, has been raised 8lb for that victory, but seems certain to improve for what was his first outing in Britain.

Preference, however, is for Flaxen Flare (3.35, Ascot), trained, like last year’s winner, Cause Of Causes, by Gordon Elliott in Ireland. A spectacular winner of the juvenile handicap hurdle at last season’s Cheltenham Festival, this blinkered (and occasionally moody) four-year-old has been earmarked for this prize for some months and should not be inconvenienced by the ground.

Pendra, the winner of his first two races over fences, looks a fine recruit to chasing, but the more experienced Grey Gold (1.50 Ascot), a real mud-lover, may have his measure in the extended two-mile handicap chase.

Special Catch (2.40 Haydock) is my bet of the day. Keith Reveley’s improving hurdler was in the finishing mix with More Of That at the course last month and the form has since been extremely well advertised.

Simonsig, unable to run in the King George VI Chase at Kempton after developing a splint in his near fore, has now been ruled out for the season. A winner at the last two Cheltenham Festivals, the grey will now be put away for the 2014 Boxing Day feature.

Gerard Butler has withdrawn his appeal against a five-year ban imposed by the British Horseracing Authority for doping. The Newmarket trainer admitted injecting four horses with Rexogin, a product designed for human use, which contains the anabolic steroid stanozolol. He also used Sungate, which contains traces of the steroid, on five horses. The disciplinary panel called Butler’s actions “truly appalling behaviour from a licensed trainer”.

For more information visit lovetheraces.com

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Wembley Stadium
footballNews follows deal with Germany
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Voices
voicesApple continually kill off smaller app developers, and that's no good for anyone
Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style
life

News
ScienceGallery: Otherwise known as 'the best damn photos of space you'll see till 2015'
Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Life and Style
tech
Sport
Andros Townsend is challenged by Vladimir Volkov
football
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Financial Services Associate - City

Highly Competitive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - FINANCIAL SERVICES - Senior...

Residential Property

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Residential Conveyancer - Wiltshire We have a...

Y5 Teacher

£90 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Leicester: Long term position for a KS2...

Graduate BI Consultant (Business Intelligence) - London

£24000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Graduate BI Consultant (B...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week