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.

Sir Des Champs, who won at the Cheltenham Festival last year under Davy Russell

Cheltenham Festival: Jim Culloty rides Lord Windermere to victory in the RSA Chase

Willie Mullins-trained Boston Bob crashed out at the final fence when going well in front

Tidal Bay, right, is very well handicapped in the National

Lenient weight for Aintree fancy Tidal Bay angers National rivals

However conscientiously they strive to improve the odds in terms of safety at Aintree – a greater imperative than ever, after trauma and tragedy in each of the past two years – the one thing they will never provide is a level playing field. Even so, some felt that the dice had been unfairly loaded in favour of one horse in particular when the weights for the John Smith's Grand National were published.

Gold standard: Sir Des Champs (right), ridden by Davy Russell, races clear of Andrew Lynch on Flemenstar to win the Hennessy Gold Cup at Leopardstown

Sir Des Champs takes trial with ease

Mullins gelding jumps into reckoning for Cheltenham Gold Cup as Silviniaco Conti also impresses

Alasi (centre) upstages 4-9 shot Champion Court at Kempton yesterday

Flemenstar to pass the stamina test

Racehorses will never give you an answer when they can come up with a new question instead.

Rachel Joyce: Morality tale celebrates the kindness of strangers

Paperback review: The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, By Rachel Joyce

She who would valiant be ...

Bobs Worth will not race again before the Cheltenham Gold Cup

Bobs Worth heads missing list from Gold Cup warm-up

Typical. Just when the weather seemed prepared to clear the stage for his critical rehearsal, the favourite for the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup has come up with a problem of his own. And while his trainer sounds relaxed about taking him straight to the Festival in March, Bobs Worth will now line up for the biggest test of his life after only five starts over fences.

Harry The Viking jumps a fence at Cheltenham last year

Sir Alex Ferguson's Viking to raid Aintree

Harry The Viking, who carries the silks of Sir Alex Ferguson, was today confirmed as a possible runner in the John Smith's Grand National.

Hurricane Fly gained a bloodless victory in the Istabraq Festival Hurdle at Leopardstown on Saturday

Nicholls shapes his plans to fit Bay's eccentric contours

Given that awards and judgements seem to be a natural feature of the turn of a year, surely the statisticians at the sport's ratings bible Timeform can take the opportunity to hand out a bit of justice with the removal of one of their pejorative gongs. For the past four seasons the symbol for unreliability – a periwig squiggle – has accompanied their annual essays on the classy but enigmatic Tidal Bay.

Jezki forges clear over the final flight at Leopardstown yesterday

Casey's Flemenstar seeks fanfare for common man

It is the moment of truth not just for Flemenstar, but for anyone clinging to the hope that he can restore the lost romance to jump racing. A sport increasingly dominated by wealthy patrons of a few top trainers today shares the tension and excitement suffusing the Casey family's tiny stable, just up the coast from Dublin, as Flemenstar attempts a new summit at Leopardstown. A first start over three miles in the Lexus Chase, in testing ground, requires him to disclose a doughtiness to match his brilliance. If he proves equal to the challenge, every neutral will join his connections in their dream of landing the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Jack Straw: Served 13 years in the Cabinet and has an ear for an anecdote

IoS Books of the Year 2012: Politics

This year was a long time in politics

David Pipe’s novice chaser Dynaste gains an impressive win at Newbury yesterday

Magnanimity offers generous value to end Ireland's Hennessy drought

Change of headgear can revive Hughes' chaser while Big Buck's looks on course for win No 18

CIVILWAR DIG: This print of

Civil war battle rises from the ruins of Old Fredericksburg

Perhaps the Yankee boys from Company C had tumbled into the basement on Princess Anne Street to escape the rebel snipers hidden in the ruined buildings outside.

DJ Taylor: Why change always gets the better of us...

... and how, among ourselves, we have much sunnier memories of the Bad Old Days than the official chroniclers of our age

LVMH rides out economic storms

Despite a slowdown in China and turmoil in Europe, the insatiable demand for monogrammed Louis Vuitton luggage and Marc Jacobs handbags is showing no signs of abating.

Latest stories from i100
Career Services

Day In a Page

A
Independent Travel
Pompeii, Capri & the Bay of Naples
Seven Cities of Italy
Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence
Prague, Budapest and Vienna
Lake Garda
Minoan Crete and Santorini
Prices correct as of 1 May 2015
General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants