Relentless Buck's can go one better than perfect 10

As Plan Bs go, the one applied to Big Buck's has had a lot to recommend it. Since a clumsy fall in a Hennessy Gold Cup prompted his redirection from fences to the smaller obstacles, he is unbeaten in 10 runs and the defending dual champion in the World Hurdle today. He is not only rated as the classiest staying hurdler in training, but the best hurdler full stop.

No horse has won three marathon crowns in a row, though, not even Baracouda or Inglis Drever. If Big Buck's is to do so today, he will not make life easy for his supporters. He is a horse with boundless talent, but a mildly recidivist attitude requiring a perfectly timed finishing pounce. But Ruby Walsh's velvet-gloved iron hand on the reins is the perfect foil.

The chief opponent of Big Buck's (3.20) is perceived as the progressive Grands Crus, unbeaten this season and so impressive on the course in January. But a bigger threat may be another grey, the fragile Fiveforthree, a novice winner at the meeting three years ago who caught the eye in victory at Punchestown last month, his first outing for nearly two years.

The Ryanair Chase, the newest of the week's Grade One features, is something of a betwixt and between, the province of horses who lack the pace for the Champion Chase or the reserves of stamina for the Gold Cup, and the class for neither. Last year's runner-up Poquelin and third J'y Vole try again but the vote goes to Kalahari King (2.40), unlucky last time.

In the opener, Wishfull Thinking (1.30) may thwart Irish raider Mr Cracker and in the handicaps Alfie Spinner (2.05, ew), Quartz de Thaix (4.00) and Junior (4.40) are suggested.

Tips from the top: The Independent's writers predict the outcome of today's big race

Chris McGrath Racing Correspondent

1. Fiveforthree 12-1

2. Big Buck's evens

3. Grands Crus 9-4

James Lawton Chief Sports Writer

1. Big Buck's evens

2. Grands Crus 9-4

3. Mourad 9-1

James Corrigan Sports writer

1. Fiveforthree 12-1

2. Big Buck's evens

3. Mourad 9-1

Sue Montgomery Racing Writer

1. Big Buck's evens

2. Fiveforthree 12-1

3. Grands Crus 9-4

Hyperion Tipster

1. Big Buck's evens

2. Grands Crus 9-4

3. Fiveforthree 12-1

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