World falls to resolute Walsh and Buck's fizz

As Plan Bs go, winning a championship contest here during this particular week has a lot to recommend it. Big Buck's, the steeplechaser manqué, is now top of the pile among staying hurdlers. A clumsy fall at the last fence in the Hennessy Gold Cup four months ago prompted his redirection to the smaller obstacles and yesterday he gave Ruby Walsh his fifth success of the Festival in the World Hurdle.

Big Buck's is a horse with boundless talent but a recidivist attitude, with Walsh's iron hand in a velvet glove the perfect foil. "We need that man on board," said trainer Paul Nicholls. "Watch the horse in his races and know him at home and you'll know he keeps plenty for himself. And even today he had those ears pricked as he went past the post."

The tall, dark six-year-old is the sort who is always better with something to aim at rather than being the target, and a mistake at the last hurdle, when upsides Punchestowns, may well have helped his cause. He had to regain, rather than retain, the lead, which he did halfway up the hill, and forged a length and three-quarters ahead of his rival almost before he realised he was in front. "He has a huge engine," confirmed Walsh, "but it's just a matter of getting the power out of him. He is quirky but when he's doing it right he's a cracking horse."

French raider Kasbah Bliss, last year's runner-up and the odds-on favourite, was a disappointment. He cruised towards the front rank at the penultimate flight but then faded and was passed for third-place on the run-in by Irish outsider Powerstation. "No excuse at all," said trainer François Doumen. "He was 200 per cent ready, but just couldn't catch them up."

Big Buck's, who carries the colours of Nicholls' long-time supporter Andy Stewart, is likely to return to fences in due course, but not before another crack at the World Hurdle next year.

"We tried to make him an Arkle horse last year when he wasn't one, and maybe rushed him a bit," the trainer said. "Two miles is too quick for him and he wasn't the bravest at his fences, despite winning twice. His confidence will come back over fences in time, though. We bought him as a Gold Cup prospect, and I can see him in that race in two years' time, perhaps as an eight-year-old."

The presence of Stewart's son Paul alongside him on the podium in a wheelchair both put his success in perspective and magnified his pleasure in it. The young man broke his back in a snowboarding accident during the winter and faces a lengthy recovery. "My horses run in the name of The Stewart Family," Andy said, "and this week was all about getting one of us out of hospital. And he's determined to stay until the last tomorrow to watch Poquelin. "

The day's other Grade One contest, the Ryanair Chase, also involved a winner who might have been somewhere else, but the execution of Imperial Commander's victory in the two and a half miler on the day was emphatically Plan A. The eight-year-old, who had given notice that he could be a big-stage player when he took the Paddy Power Gold Cup here in November, took yesterday's race by the scruff from the off. The pivotal point came at the fourth-last fence where his rider, Paddy Brennan, who had set a relentless, rhythmic gallop, upped the ante and the hot favourite Voy Por Ustedes blundered horribly.

"The idea was to take the sting out of the others," said trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies. "We know he stays, and we know he can come up this hill." Brennan concurred. "The idea was to put the pressure on Choc [Thornton, on Voy Por Ustedes] and get him off the bridle and force him into errors. And it worked. Mine is such a tough horse; they came at him one after the other and he shrugged them off."

Imperial Commander had not run since finishing sixth to Kauto Star in the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day. "He was just about the only one to have a crack at the winner and make a race of it," added Twiston-Davies, "but there was no point in taking Kauto Star on again this season, even here, so this race was the obvious alternative. Next year, though, the plan is to come back for the big one."

After two days of Irish hegemony, the home side struck back with a clean sweep, including a notable double for Venetia Williams with Kayf Aramis in the Pertemps Hurdle Final and Something Wells, who for good measure beat stablemate Ping Pong Sivola, in the Freddie Williams Festival Plate. Nicholls took the Jewson Novices' Chase with handicap snip Chapoturgeon and John Quinn-trained Character Building booked his place in the Grand National in the finale.

Something Wells's race claimed the life of faller Clarified, the week's first fatality. Two jockeys ended the day in hospital, Paul Carberry – who had returned to action after a leg injury only on Tuesday – with a fractured rib and punctured lung after a buffeting fall from Jaamid in the opener, and the amateur Oliver Greenall with abdomen damage.

Festival pacesetters: After three days

Jockeys:

Ruby Walsh: 5 wins

Barry Geraghty: 2

Trainers:

Willie Mullins: 3 wins

Paul Nicholls: 3

Venetia Williams: 2

Nigel Twiston-Davies: 2

Britain v Ireland:

Britain: 11 wins

Ireland: 8

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Andy Davidhazy at the beginning (left) and end (right) of his hike
video
News
Taylor Swift is applying to trademark song lyrics from 1989
people
Voices
The popularity of TV shows such as The Liver Birds encouraged Liverpudlians to exaggerate their Scouse accent
voicesWe exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
Life and Style
Parker says: 'I once had a taster use the phrase 'smells like the sex glands of a lemming'. Who in the world can relate to that?'
food + drinkRobert Parker's 100-point scale is a benchmark of achievement for wine-makers everywhere
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
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: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing