Big Bucks secures third World Hurdle

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The Independent Online

The incomparable Big Buck's stretched his unbeaten record to 11 races when securing a third consecutive Ladbrokes World Hurdle at Cheltenham.

Paul Nicholls' now-legendary stayer turned in what was arguably a career-best display to overcome talented six-year-old Grands Crus by a length and three-quarters.

The success was even more meritorious as Ruby Walsh dropped his whip, with a sedate pace from the outset also doing little to help his cause.

No horse has ever won the World Hurdle for three years on the spin, with the exploits of Big Buck's sending a heaving Cheltenham Festival grandstand into near delirium.

Nicholls said: "We were a bit worried about the ground and that they weren't going to go a gallop.

"We knew pretty well what Grands Crus was going to do.

"We just improvised a little bit. I was nervous as he hasn't run on that ground. He wins by staying, and class is what he's got.

"David (Pipe, trainer of Grands Crus) was the first to shake my hand.

"The best horse won on the day but it was an awesome performance by both horses.

"I think that's arguably a career-best for Big Buck's."

Cross Kennon took the field along through the early stages but they were not going a serious pace.

Walsh was in the right position, however, as he was never more than two lengths off the speed.

Cross Kennon was still in front turning into the straight, but Walsh was the first to commit on Big Buck's.

Fiveforthree and Mourad also briefly looked dangerous but it was Grands Crus who emerged as his biggest danger - only for Big Buck's to find more up the hill.

Mourad took the minor honours in third, another two and three-quarter lengths away from the undisputed champion of the world.

Walsh said: "He's an aeroplane, but I made a bad mistake as I dropped my stick halfway to the last hurdle.

"It was my own fault as I was trying to see where the others were behind me so I was only half-watching what I was doing.

"I knew I had loads of horse left, but I knew it was going to be tactical and that Grands Crus was going to try to follow me.

"This horse has matured so much mentally you can stretch him in front and he has dug deep.

"He had an entry in the Arkle when he was younger but I've always thought he could run a big race in the Champion Hurdle.

"I was lucky enough to get away with it today.

"He's a wonderful horse and he's got me out of trouble."

Walsh added: "In a hurdle race he's just as unbeatable as they come - he's like (American great) Cigar on the Flat.

"The guys riding against him knew exactly what to do and had their tactics spot-on, but it didn't matter.

"He's just different, he has so much class as you're riding a Champion Hurdle-Gold Cup horse in a stayers' hurdle."

Tom Scudamore, rider of Grands Crus, said: "I think I hit the front after the last for a stride but then Big Buck's just powered away from me.

"The whole race has gone well, everything went well, he got to the race in top condition but at the end of the day we weren't quite good enough.

"It was a great race and I think everybody should be proud of the race we put on.

"Unfortunately there can only be one winner and it wasn't us today.

"We'll try chasing next year."

Pipe said: "He's run the race of his life. Big Buck's is the best staying hurdler there's been for years so we can't be disappointed with that."