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Mighty Buck's still World champion
Paul Nicholls was able to count upon his most dependable ally to effectively rescue his Cheltenham Festival as Big Buck's sent records tumbling with a fourth Ladbrokes World Hurdle success.
Now surely the finest of his kind in National Hunt history, the nine-year-old (5-6 favourite) was becoming the first horse to take the staying crown so many times, and with it equalled Sir Ken's feat of winning 16 consecutive jumps races back in the 1950s.
Nicholls had managed to claim Tuesday's Champion Hurdle, but Rock On Ruby was trained at a different stable and the majority of runners from his main Ditcheat base had been performing far below expectations, so this was a great relief to the champion trainer.
Ruby Walsh made his decisive move earlier than usual as the main opposition were considered speed horses and he was determined not to be beaten for a finishing kick, but having burned them off he then had to find an extra gear to hold Voler La Vedette by a length and three-quarters.
Nicholls said: "Apart from Rock On Ruby, Cheltenham had been a disaster. I had told everybody we'd had this cough and although the older horses seem OK, a lot were running badly. It was the slowest start to a Festival we've ever had.
"This was the one race I wanted to win more than anything. Of course I want to win the Gold Cup with Kauto Star, but just having him here is a privilege and I wanted to win this race for Andy (Stewart, owner) and for racing really. This was the target of his whole season. To win four World Hurdles and 16 in a row is phenomenal."
Nicholls said it was not certain Big Buck's would attempt to break Sir Ken's mark outright in the Liverpool Hurdle, although he would like him to.
He added: "He's been to Aintree the last few years and I would think he'll go. The only question is it is now a gap of a month rather than three weeks, so the main thing is to see how he is. He's nine and Kauto is 12 and if he can keep going as long, it would be fantastic. There's no reason he can't keep coming back."
Walsh added: "He's an amazing horse. There's pressure to ride him, but there'd be even greater pressure if I didn't. I rode him much handier than last year - they were all speed horses, Thousand Stars, Oscar Whisky, So Young, but the only one that stayed was this lad.
"He's never flat out and if ever I squeeze a bit more he gives a bit more, but I don't know how much there is because I've never got to the bottom of him. He's just a great horse and thank goodness I ride him."