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.

Sam Waley-Cohen rides Long Run to victory in the Betfair Denman Chase at Newbury

Fluent Long Run silences (some) critics

On a day when tailbacks in and out of Newbury amply testified to the appeal of a free day at the races, plenty seemed eager enough to look a gift horse in the mouth.

Spotlight on: Bernard Arnault, Chairman, LVMH

Why is the "wolf in cashmere" back in the news?

Grands Crus is unbeaten in three starts over fences this season

Grands Crus to test Gold Cup terrain on Festival trials day

On the day when British horseracing measured its resilience against recession, publishing record attendances in 2011, racegoers were given every incentive to get the turnstiles clicking again at Cheltenham on Saturday. Entries made yesterday for the Festival trials card appear to guarantee at least one new favourite for the real thing, in March, with the three horses sharing the top of the JCB Triumph Hurdle market all lined up for a dress rehearsal. Even so, no race will be more instructive than the Argento Chase, perhaps the last opportunity to prevent the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup becoming another straight duel between Kauto Star and Long Run.

Diamond Harry clears the last to win the 2010 Hennessy at Newbury

Diamond can sparkle in company of legends

No matter what the heart says, one look at the odds is enough to make the head hopelessly confused.

Big Buck's seeks a 14th consecutive win at Ascot
The trainer is looking to saddle the first Hennessy winner from an Irish yard for 31 years

Meade casts Irish eyes on elusive Hennessy

Though most of Britain's prestige jumping prizes are regularly shipped to Ireland, there is one that has proved surprisingly elusive to the raiders. In 54 runnings, the Hennessy Gold Cup has been exported on only three occasions, firstly during the 1960s by dual winner Arkle and most recently back in 1980 by Bright Highway.

Henrietta Knight: The trainer saw Somersby enjoy a first success for nearly two years at Kempton

Somersby back with a bang for Knight

The search for something to challenge Long Run for top chasing honours this season, which began in earnest when Weird Al and Time For Rupert left their rivals behind at Wetherby on Saturday, continued yesterday at Kempton, with a long-overdue victory for the talented Somersby, and will do so again this afternoon at Exeter, where Arkle Trophy hero Captain Chris is among a clutch of last term's talented novices returning to action.

France: Raising a glass to Cognac

A journey to the home of French brandy production reveals a heady blend of history and innovation

Leading article: What about the workers?

The backward march of the labouring class began in Margaret Thatcher's time, if not before. In the 1960s, to be working class was the very height of fashion. After the Angry Young Men rebelled against bourgeois respectability, grammar-school boys whose parents were teachers, such as Michael Jagger, adopted the accents and poses of the workers. Then, most people were proud to describe themselves as working class, even if, increasingly, they did white-collar jobs.

The art of mutation

An exhibition by HRL Contemporary examines the nature of metamorphosis and hybridity in art. Matilda Battersby reports

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.

Kempes glory amid the gore

The grimly bizarre events yesterday at Newbury, where racing was abandoned on safety grounds after two horses were fatally electrocuted in the parade ring before the first race, shifted the sporting focus, with just over four weeks to go before the start of the Cheltenham Festival, to the high-class card at Leopardstown.

Lord Windlesham: Government minister who fell out with Thatcher over 'Death on the Rock'

Lord Windlesham found a place in politics, the media, business and academia, serving in various capacities under Prime Minister Edward Heath in the 1970s.

Minella makes the most of life in the slow lane

One of racing's assets is that it is such a broad church, offering so many different ways to worship. If you want to follow only the premier division, the exploits of the Kauto Stars and Hurricane Flys, you can. If you want to find winners by compiling an analysis of apprentice-ridden mounts at Wolverhampton on wet Wednesdays, you can. If you want to send 50 texts to make sure your hero A P McCoy gets an award, that's fine as well.

Pandorama hits top gear on road to the Gold Cup

Those of us who were depicting Pandorama as some sort of inexorable new force on the steeplechasing scene, before his first visit to Britain last month, were soon made to look rather silly.

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There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
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The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

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Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick