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Racing: Buck's out for season in big blow to Nicholls


Big Buck's, Paul Nicholls' champion staying hurdler, and his Paddy Power Gold Cup winner Al Ferof are "unlikely" to run again this season, the trainer said last night.

The former, who has won his last 18 starts over hurdles, scoring most recently at Newbury at the start of this month, had been due to run in Saturday's Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot, while Al Ferof was being prepared for the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day.

Nicholls said: "At evening stables tonight, we discovered a problem with both Big Buck's and Al Ferof. I am not in a position to go into great detail at this point, but I can confirm that Big Buck's will not be taking up his engagement at Ascot on Saturday and Al Ferof will not be running in the King George. And both are unlikely to run again this season."

Andy Stewart, the owner of Big Buck's, said the nine-year-old had suffered a leg injury and would not defend his stayers' crown in the Ladbrokes World Hurdle, which he has won for the last four seasons, at the Cheltenham Festival next March.

"He didn't do it [sustain the injury] on the gallops," Stewart said. "He was a little bit anxious in one of his legs at evening stables and after Clifford [Baker, Nicholls' head lad] and the vet inspected him, we decided to draw stumps. He'll not be running on Saturday and won't be trying to win a fifth World Hurdle.

"I'm a little bit gutted, but no one has died and the horse is perfectly well. When the horses come back in at the end of July we shall reassess the situation. If he still has that zest and sparkle, we will continue with him, but if he hasn't, he will be retired."

The injuries are the latest twist in a tumultuous few days for Nicholls, who last week bounced back from a dispiriting public dispute with the owner of the retired champion Kauto Star to saddle a four-timer at Cheltenham on Saturday.

Turf Account

Chris McGrath's Nap: Glastonberry (1.20 Lingfield)

Stylish winner under today's rider before a fine third when raised to this trip in an apprentice race last time.

Next Best: Oscar Stanley (12.10 Catterick)

Clearly equal to this kind of mark judged on a good second in his first handicap at Carlisle last spring, raised only 1lb for that and his only subsequent start coming too soon.

One to watch: Misleading Promise (John Butler) was well backed for his nursery handicap debut at Kempton last week and showed why in cutting through traffic for third, much improved for a break and a longer trip.

Where the Money's Going: Michel Le Bon is 8-1 from 10-1 with Paddy Power for the Coral Welsh National at Chepstow on 27 December.