Could Big Buck’s be Cheltenham’s biggest certainty?
On all known form, Big Buck’s looks to be the biggest certainty of the Cheltenham Festival (13–16 March), having won the £150,000 Ladbrokes World Hurdle race for the past three years and clocked up 15 consecutive victories since 2009.
The bookies are taking no chances and have priced up the nine-year-old gelding at 1/2, half the odds on offer when he won the same race last year (10/11) or the year before (5/6). In fact, Big Buck’s has been odds on in each of his last 12 races so his followers haven’t got rich but they’ve certainly earned more than they would have done from a high street bank.
The 20 career wins of Big Buck’s have earned his connections over £1 million in prize-money and he’s now only one victory away from equalling Sir Ken’s record of 16 consecutive victories over hurdles, achieved between 1951 and 1953.
Proud owner Andy Stewart said: “The Stewarts adore Big Buck’s. He’s part of the family.
“Things didn’t start well when he came over from France in early 2007. Customs officials in Dover confiscated the goat with whom he’d grown up.
“In his first race – a steeplechase for novice horses – he beat Her Majesty’s horse Barber’s Shop by a neck. ‘Orf with his head’ screamed the victor’s trainer Nicky Henderson!”
After Big Buck’s lost over fences in the Hennessy Gold Cup in 2008, he was switched back to hurdles. “A mad idea hatched by the genius trainer Paul Nicholls. Many of us said he was bonkers,” said Andy.
“The first of his 15 wins over the smaller obstacles was on New Year’s Day in 2009 at Cheltenham when he beat Don’t Push It, who has since gone on to win the Grand National under AP McCoy.
“Owning the horse has become a nervous responsibility. Our family are so lucky and the numerous messages and letters that we receive overwhelms us. Who knows if he will win for a 16th time in a row – but win, lose or draw he will always be a very special horse to us.”
Regular jockey Ruby Walsh said: “He’s incredible to be unbeaten for so long. He never looks flashy but just keeps winning. You like grafters, the flashy ones never last.”
The biggest rival to Big Buck’s could be Oscar Whisky, a ten times winner who is two years younger. The two horses have never met and whoever comes second will know he’s had a race with a true champion.