If anyone can conjure a staying Prospect to fill the Big Buck's void, Nicholls can

 

It never seemed terribly likely that his spree might be brought to an end by a superior horse, at least so long as connections declined to risk him over shorter distances.

All along, you suspected that Big Buck's would instead be derailed by a latent imperfection of his own: a mistimed jump, perhaps, or a breakdown of some kind. In the event, the leg injury that ultimately intervened this week was discovered during a routine tour of inspection at his stables. As such, he remains entitled to return one day and extend an immaculate sequence of wins over timber that currently stands at 18.

Any who took Big Buck's for granted will only now grasp what a miracle of soundness and consistency he has been. And they will look at the division he bestrode, and conclude that whatever is gained – in terms of competition – can scarcely redress what has been lost in glamour. The Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot today, for which the champion was originally quoted at microscopic odds, now becomes a first eliminator to find a candidate to fill the vacancy in the Ladbrokes World Hurdle at Cheltenham in March. And it is instructive that the favourite, Smad Place, was beaten nearly nine lengths in third when Big Buck's won that race for a fourth time running last season.

In fairness, Smad Place had previously been beaten by only one of 26 rivals in two visits to this track and remains unexposed at this trip. But while his trainer, Alan King, seems satisfied the horse can put a poor comeback behind him, conditions guarantee a slog unprecedented in his career. Trustan Times is respected as an emerging force at this level, having given weight to a strong field at Haydock last time. But it would be typical of Paul Nicholls, for whom Big Buck's has been a mainstay of his reign as champion trainer, to pull a rabbit out of the hat in Prospect Wells (2.00).

True, he is taking something of a shot in the dark with a horse who was able to run Zarkandar to a neck over two miles round a track as sharp as Wincanton on their reappearance. Readily excused a flat run in handicap company the following weekend, which presumably came too soon, Prospect Wells had shaped as though he could open up new horizons as a stayer when fifth in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle at the Festival, outpaced before staying on stoutly up the hill, beaten barely two lengths. On the face of it, this might seem too brutish an assignment for a horse classy enough to have finished second in the Grand Prix de Paris in his youth, but his pedigree was always very much oriented towards stamina. He looks a fair price at 6-1.

If he does discover fulfilment over this distance, there may be plenty who regret their infidelity after he was turned over as favourite for the Ladbroke Hurdle on this card last season. One of the most valuable handicaps of the winter, today's running looks impossibly competitive. It would be hard enough to nominate the best of Nicky Henderson's four, albeit Cash And Go still has the air of a feasible Champion Hurdle type about him; or one from three running in the colours of J P McManus; or to sort out the five who made the first six in a similar affair at Cheltenham last month. Rattan (3.10) has to reverse form with the rest but was set plenty to do, has a pull in the weights and represents a stable that would hardly be guessing that a return trip across the sea might be warranted.

Henderson was delighted by the chasing debut of Simonsig on yesterday's card, albeit the grey was more or less left to complete a solo school after three of his four rivals – all established as inferior anyway – failed to get round. He nonetheless jumped with terrific energy and bookmakers hastened to trim further still his Racing Post Arkle Chase odds, Coral going 2-1 from 3-1. It was a good day for Barry Geraghty, again able to cruise home on the bridle before trainer Oliver Sherwood acclaimed Puffin Billy as the best prospect he has trained in 20 years.

Turf Account

Chris McGrath's nap

Merry King (2.15 Haydock)

Next Best

Lastkingofscotland (4.20 Wolverhampton)

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
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

Recruitment Genius: Developer

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you familiar with the sayin...

Recruitment Genius: Hospitality Assistant

£6 - £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This care organisation take pride in del...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker

£6 - £7 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This care organisation take pride in del...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Assistant

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has ari...

Day In a Page

John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

Computerised cooking is coming

From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
Football Beyond Borders: Even the most distruptive pupils score at homework club

Education: Football Beyond Borders

Add football to an after-school homework club, and even the naughtiest boys can score
10 best barbecue books

Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power
Ron Dennis exclusive: ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

Ron Dennis shrugs off a poor start to the season in an exclusive interview, and says the glory days will come back
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most