Big Bucks’ return sets up most fascinating World Hurdle in years
While an injury to Big Buck’s undoubtedly robbed last year’s World Hurdle of some of its sheen, there’s little doubt that the race itself was a more intriguing prospect for his absence.
A belated bid for his fifth victory in the race is in the offing but another year older and with at least two genuinely threatening rivals keening their blades his days could be numbered.
Across the three seasons which followed Big Buck’s maiden World Hurdle win, arguably only David Pipe’s Grand Crus ever presented a serious threat to his supremacy going into Festival Thursday.
The dominant stayer of recent years is unlikely to occupy such a short position in the Cheltenham 2014 odds, with Solwhit – the 2013 World Hurdle winner in his absence – or indeed Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle boss At Fishers Cross both likely to pose formidable opposition.
Solwhit had been something of an unknown quantity at 3m before his Cheltenham win having spent the campaigns since he flopped as a 2010 Champion Hurdle favourite either chasing Hurricane Fly in Ireland or on lengthy injury hiatuses.
However, he ran out a classy winner in the staying hurdlers’ showpiece and proved that victory no fluke when following up with ease at Aintree.
Meanwhile At Fishers Cross has a perfect combination of teak-tough staying power and a love for the lung-bursting Cheltenham challenge which demands that he be taken seriously.
A winner of all but one of his seven hurdles starts, he’s unbeaten over trips beyond 2m4f and has won all three of his races at Prestbury Park, including when downing the colours of Neptune Novices Hurdle winner The New One.