Big Buck's ready for biggest test

March 13, 2014
Racing - Horse Racing - Bet Now at Bet365

Big Buck's is "back to his top form" ahead of Thursday's World Hurdle, according to owner Andy Stewart.

The Paul Nicholls-trained star is bidding for a fifth World Hurdle title at the Cheltenham Festival but faces arguably his biggest challenge yet in Annie Power.

Annie Power will be partnered by Ruby Walsh, the jockey who rode Big Buck's to World Hurdle glory in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 and receives a seven pound weight allowance because of her sex.

Big Buck's is now an 11-year-old veteran, while Annie Power is just six-years-old and boasts an unbeaten record.

Big Buck's returned from a 14 month spell on the sidelines in January's Cleeve Hurdle but saw an 18-race unbeaten run come to an end as he came in third behind Knockara Beau and At Fishers Cross.

Stewart, however, remains confident Big Buck's can come out on top and played down the significance of defeat in the Cleeve Hurdle.

"We think Big Buck's is back to his top form, but, just like his owner, he's getting on in age. He's done nothing wrong at all with his preparation since he was beaten three-quarters of a length in the Cleeve. If he had won by that margin, he would not be 3-1," explained Stewart.

"I spoke to [former Manchester United manager] Sir Alex Ferguson and he said if a player had been off for 42 days he would start him off in the reserves and not play him for the full 90 minutes until he'd had three or four games.

"With Big Buck's there was nothing else you could do but put him in a competitive race over three miles giving a bit of weight (8lb) to the winner (Knockara Beau), and he'd been off for 420 days plus it was only the second time he'd been on turf.

"We are a little nervous, but there's nothing he's doing at home to suggest he's 11 years of age and he's had too much. We massively respect the mare. She's unbeaten, but there are question marks over whether she will stay and if Big Buck's is back to his top form, is she good enough?"

Big Buck's is priced at 4.00 to win the World Hurdle, Annie Power can be backed at 2.75 and Salubrious, who is also trained by Nicholls, is available at 17.00.

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