Jumps star Big Buck's closing in on record
Monday 28 November 2011
With racing historically the best-documented of all sports, it is perhaps no surprise that records and milestones hold particular fascination. The calendar that preceded the modern formbook has detailed the achievements of the thoroughbred since 1727, the stud book has recorded the development of the breeds since 1790. Together, the two provide a treasury of information.
Jumping's longest winning streak is now under serious threat. On Saturday, the superlative hurdler Big Buck's, unbeaten for nearly three years, won his 13th race on the spin and now needs just three more to equal Sir Ken, who won 16 hurdle races in succession between 1951 and 1953.
That great horse's winning run included two of his three Champion Hurdles but in his day there were few decent prizes for horses of his gifts and many of his victories came in uncompetitive minor contests, one at odds of 1-33. Big Buck's, though, has raced only at the top two levels since launching his unbeaten run in January 2009.
Whether or not he can get to Sir Ken, his five-length saunter at Newbury means he is now as short as 4-7 to establish his own piece of history by taking the Cheltenham Festival stayers' championship, the World Hurdle, an unprecedented four times and his regular rider Ruby Walsh has few doubts. "He's a good, safe jumper, goes on any ground and hardly has to come out of second gear," he said. "He's better than any pension at the moment, isn't he?"
Another hurdler, Overturn, put himself in the record books by becoming the first to win Newcastle's top contest on the Flat, the Northumberland Plate, and over obstacles, the Fighting Fifth Hurdle. One in the versatile mould of a Sea Pigeon, the progressive Overturn saw off last year's Champion Hurdle winner, Binocular, for his first Grade One success but is to miss the rematch in the next top-level prize on the domestic two-mile circuit, the Christmas Hurdle on Boxing Day.
"He's as tough as nails and you wouldn't know he'd had a race this morning," the seven-year-old's trainer Donald McCain said. "He's a fantastic horse; just when you think he can't do any more, he goes and does it. But he'll have a break now and he won't be going to Kempton."
Overturn has another tilt at the Champion Hurdle, in which he was seventh in March, pencilled in. "We'll have another go as he does seem to have improved this season," McCain added, "and he'll have one run beforehand."
The Hennessy Gold Cup put Lord Oaksey in the unique position of being the only man to have ridden and bred a winner of the prestige handicap chase. As an amateur rider, he drove Taxidermist to a short-head victory in 1958 and is breeder and part-owner of the latest victor, Carruthers.
Saturday's hero, who made most of the running under Mattie Batchelor, has taken his exertions in his gallant stride and has the Welsh National at the end of next month on his agenda. "He's bright and perky," his trainer Mark Bradstock said, "and he's entered at Chepstow. We'll see what the handicapper does."
No winner of the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe has followed up in the Japan Cup and Danedream, who took Europe's most valuable race in a record time last month, is no exception. The Peter Schiergen-trained filly, much compromised by her wide draw, finished only sixth behind local heroine Buena Vista, whose last-stride success in the world's third-richest race – after the Dubai World Cup and Melbourne Cup – provided a £2m compensation for her demotion to second last year.
Another Arc winner, Sea The Stars, has been rewriting a set of record books in his second career. By the end of the British and Irish bloodstock world's foal auction season on Saturday, 13 of the unbeaten 2009 champion's first-crop sons and daughters had made an aggregate £4.5m under the hammer, the best commercial start ever by a stallion.
Chris McGrath's Nap
Super Directa (1.15 Ffos Las)
A winner on the Flat and over hurdles, he was put in his place by a potentially very useful rival on his first try over fences. With a less taxing task today he can complete his full house.
Beau Colonel (2.00 Folkestone)
Jumped soundly and shaped with a degree of promise on his chasing debut three weeks ago. Should settle better and strip fitter with that run out of the way.
One to Watch
A mistake halfway round at Exeter last week knocked the stuffing from Flaming Charlie (Alan King) and he can be given another chance.
Where The Money's Going
Serial leading trainer Paul Nicholls has yet to win a Champion Hurdle and one of this season's candidates, Rock On Ruby, has attracted interest for the Cheltenham crown – as short as 12-1 (with Ladbrokes) – since his winning return to action on Saturday.
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