Sport Big Buck's wins in 2012 at Cheltenham, where he returns on Saturday after missing last year

Big Buck’s is back. More than a year after effortlessly extending his unbeaten sequence to 18, the four-time World Hurdle winner returns to Cheltenham for the Cleeve Hurdle on trials day to great fanfare and the delight of everyone connected with the sport.

Racing: Williams icy about Cone's prospects

IT IS not always easy to pinpoint the moment when a trainer stops being "up-and-coming" and starts being a leading member of the profession. Some make the transition through sheer durability, by sticking around long enough, and sending out just enough good winners. But not Venetia Williams. She muscled in to the top ranks in the time it took Teeton Mill to annihilate his field in the King George VI Chase, almost precisely one year ago.

Racing: Legal has a strong case for O'Neill

THERE ARE two ways to look at today's Cheltenham card, one negative, the other more positive. You could point out that there are just 39 runners in six races, and that 11 of those are accounted for by a single event. Or you could breath in the optimistic, millennial spirit of the times, and realise that even at the Festival itself, there will not be such a healthy ratio of top-class horses to relative duffers.

Racing: Duke stages one last sortie with Castle

THE TRAINER David Nicholson failed to reach 1,500 winners when his two runners were beaten at Plumpton yesterday, but will try again with Castle Owen at Market Rasen today.

Racing: Harem in Club inquiry

MARK PITMAN, who won Saturday's Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury with Ever Blessed, will appear with fellow trainer Lisa Williamson before the Jockey Club disciplinary committee today over an identity irregularity concerning Harem Scarem.

Racing: Blessed win helps Pitman find relief from the mother tongue

WITH A ``Yes, mother, in a moment,'' sort of sideways glance at the redoubtable, stetsoned Jenny who had come to claim him for a photo- call, Mark Pitman, eyes emotionally damp, went on describing how it felt to send out the Hennessy Gold Cup winner in his third season as a trainer. Only for a few moments, but did disobedience signify a scissoring of the apron strings?

Racing: Pitmans prove to be Ever Blessed

IN TERMS of hard acts to follow, Mark Pitman's is a doozie. But here yesterday he took a decisive step away from being son of Jenny when his charge Ever Blessed won the Hennessy Gold Cup. The seven-year-old gelding is blessed with an excess of talent, but is difficult to keep sound and Pitman deserves every credit for producing him in perfect nick on the big day.

Racing: Step On Eyre's ascent to reach Hennessy level

THE COLD FACTS of the betting may suggest otherwise, but in one sense at least, there are no outsiders in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury today. Nothing is running because its owner is entertaining clients in the restaurant, or because its trainer is drunk with misplaced optimism. Or, for that matter, just plain drunk. Instead, the connections of every one of the 13 runners will arrive at the track with a tightness in their belly which reminds them that they might just win the big one.

Racing: Heavens opening for Blessed in Hennessy

THE LAST TIME Newbury held a race meeting, you could have enjoyed a picnic in the middle of the home straight without running the slightest risk of injury. Not so tomorrow, though, when easy going will ensure a healthy field for the Hennessy Gold Cup, and anyone who is feeling the November chill will be able to warm themselves on the glow of satisfaction radiating from Mark Kershaw, the clerk of the course.

Racing: Montjeu heads market

MONTJEU, the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe winner, has been installed as the 11-8 favourite for Saturday's Japan Cup by Coral. Japan's Special Week, who finished second last year, is the 9-2 second favourite, with Mark Johnston's Fruits Of Love on 6-1. High-Rise, the 1998 Derby winner, who is yet to sparkle this season, is available at 8-1.

Racing: Eddery overtakes Piggott's milestone

RICHARD EDMONDSON Nap: Java Shrine (Lingfield 11.35) NB: Fanfaron (Market Rasen 2.35)

Racing: Suny kept in the dark

SIMON SHERWOOD will work Suny Bay at a secret location within the next 48 hours before deciding whether the grey will run in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury a week tomorrow.

Racing: Bad work rules out Hennessy favourite

FOLLOWERS OF the Hennessy Gold Cup favourite, Stormyfairweather, who stayed behind after racing at Kempton last night to watch their hope limber up for Saturday week's Newbury feature, were able to warm themselves on a big bonfire of ante-post betting slips as darkness descended on the Sunbury course. Nicky Henderson's chaser, partnered by Mick Fitzgerald, trailed in about eight lengths behind his stablemates Bacchanal and Fiddling The Facts at the end of the two-mile work-out and will miss the Hennessy for which he had been 7-1 favourite.

Racing: Williamson gets Cross

NORMAN WILLIAMSON rides Nicholls Cross for Edward O'Grady in the First National Gold Cup Handicap Chase over two miles three-and-a-half furlongs at Ascot on Saturday.

Racing: Equiname in Murphy's

CALL EQUINAME, the Queen Mother Champion Chase winner, will carry top weight in the Murphy's Gold Cup Handicap Chase at Cheltenham a week on Saturday.

Racing: Maguire in Murphy link

ADRIAN MAGUIRE is poised to clinch a deal to ride for Ferdy Murphy. However, the jockey, in his first full season since splitting with David Nicholson, will retain his freelance status for the 1999/2000 campaign.
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