Big Bucks missed out on the opportunity to make it five consecutive wins in the World Hurdle last year as an injury ruled him out of the championship race at the Cheltenham Festival.
Paul Nicholls’ runner had dominated the three mile hurdle division up until his setback, in which he was able to record 18 straight victories.
A change back to hurdles was made after the horse unseated Sam Thomas in the 2008 Hennessy Gold Cup. It proved to be one of Nicholls’ best decisions of his training career so far as it allowed the horse to shine.
Big Bucks’ first victory in the World Hurdle arrived in 2009 where he defeated Punchestowns for the crown.
In 2010 it was Time For Rupert who offered him a stern test in which he passed by defending his title for his second win.
Further successes arrived in 2011 and 2012 which helped the horse enter the record books and set him up for a fifth consecutive success in 2013.
His campaign started well ahead of the 2012/2013 season as he won the Long Distance Hurdle once again at Newbury. However, it was after that win that it was announced the horse would miss the remainder of the campaign. That put him out of the Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham and the World Hurdle at the same track later in the year.
Big Bucks’ anticipated return arrived in the 2014 Cleeve Hurdle at Prestbury Park where he was expected to make a winning comeback as he was odds-on to do so. However, the 11-year old could only manage third behind 66/1 shock winner Knockara Beau and At Fishers Cross. It was the first time Sam Twiston-Davies was on board the horse in public after he was announced by the owners as the man who will continue to ride him now that Ruby Walsh was no longer retained by Nicholls.
After winning the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at the 2013 Cheltenham Festival, At Fishers Cross appeared to be the biggest threat to Big Bucks’ crown in the 3m hurdle division, but he has yet to score so far this season in three starts.
The Nicky Henderson runner was fourth when going off the odds-on favourite in the Long Distance Hurdle in November at Newbury, providing a bit of an upset to any bet and watch punters taking a chance on him.
At Fishers Cross then disappointed again at Ascot as he unseated Champion Jockey Tony McCoy during the Long Walk which was won by Reve De Sivola.
His latest effort ahead of Big Buck’s was more encouraging though, and forced bookmakers to cut his price ahead of the World Hurdle next month.
Last year’s winner Solwhit will be unable to return to defend his crown as he has been ruled out for the rest of the season through injury. Ireland’s best chance of winning the race once again according the betting is Rule The World.
The Gigginstown-Stud owned horse was second at the Festival 12 months ago in the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle. A step up in trip is expected to suit the seven-year old who is prominent in the market.