Big Buck’s: Racing right-handed
Owner Andy Stewart is confident Big Buck’s will not be inconvenienced by racing right-handed for the first time in Britain in Saturday’s Lough Derg Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot.
The eight-year-old has racked up a remarkable 13 consecutive victories over timber, taking in three World Hurdle titles at Cheltenham along the way.
The Paul Nicholls-trained stayer has actually landed this Grade One prize for the last two years when it has been run at Newbury, rather than Ascot, due to the weather.
“We’re nervously looking forward to it,” said Stewart.
“The one question mark about tomorrow, of course, which has been well documented, is that he is going right-handed for the first time since arriving from France.
“We’ll see whether that proves to be a problem, but hopefully he’ll be OK.
“The ground is going to be very testing and that will suit him well.”
The betting suggests the main threat to Big Buck’s is the David Pipe-trained Dynaste, a hugely impressive winner of the valuable ‘Fixed Brush’ Handicap Hurdle at Haydock last month.
The Pipe team saddled the smart Grands Crus to win that same prize last season but he came up short against Big Buck’s at Cheltenham and Aintree in the spring.
Stewart said: “I know last season David and the team were trying to think of the best way to ride Grands Crus to beat Big Buck’s and I’m sure they’ll be doing the same again.
“I’m sure they are not going to want to go off fast and set it up for Big Buck’s, but then it will not be easy to beat him from off the pace either.”
Just as it has been for the past two seasons, Big Buck’s will make his final racecourse appearance this weekend before heading back to the Festival in March.
“Win, lose or draw on Saturday, he won’t be running again before Cheltenham,” Stewart continued.
“We’ll give him a nice break and then build him back up so he’s at peak fitness for the World Hurdle again.
“If all goes well there I’d imagine he’ll then go to Aintree and that will be his four runs for the season.
“We wouldn’t think about Punchestown as he doesn’t really like to travel – he gets nervous going down the road to Wincanton sometimes!”
Jockey Ruby Walsh is also confident Big Buck’s will handle going the other way round.
“I can’t see going right-handed being a problem, I suppose there is new blood in there with Dynaste, but it is a big step up from a handicap to a Grade One race,” Walsh told Racing UK.
“He’s probably more confident in himself now, he’s got used to winning and is more adept at going forward and being in front.
“He’s not nearly as difficult a ride as maybe he was in the old days, he’s far more straightforward and hopefully he carries on.”
Nicholls reports his gelding to be in rude health.
“It’s a galloping track, which will suit him very well, and he’s come on for the Newbury run,” Nicholls told At The Races.
“Daryl (Jacob) schooled him this morning and he was mad fresh. He’s in really good order.
“He’ll get beat one day – that’s what racing is all about.
“You get nervous as there is quite a lot of pressure with these horses. You look at the betting and you think he’s a certainty, but horses do get beat and I always thought one day he’ll get himself beat.”