• Horse Racing

Big Bucks in good shape ahead of return

ESPN staff
December 20, 2013
Big Bucks will target a fifth World Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival © PA Photos

Champion stayer Big Bucks underwent a gallop before racing at Exeter on Thursday in preparation for his long-awaited return.

Paul Nicholls' star has not featured on a racetrack since making a winning return in the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury in December 2012. The 10-year-old had suffered a leg injury and has been out of action since.

However Big Bucks, who is undefeated in his last 18 starts, worked out under jockey Daryl Jacob and Nicholls was left pleased with his progress as they target the Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham in January.

"I've had him pretty fit as he has done lots of preparatory work, it was just a matter of getting him back on to a racecourse and that was his first bit on grass," Nicholls told At The Races. "With all of ours we tend to get them ready on the all-weather and it was pleasing that he didn't blow too much. It's been a long road back, but there was no way I was going to rush it.

"Our plan was to go for the Cleeve Hurdle ahead of the World Hurdle and then possibly take in Aintree in the spring. To be quite honest he looks as good as new, and when you consider the likes of Tidal Bay and Kauto Star, he is still a young horse and there is no reason he won't be as good as he's ever been.

"With any horse who has had the problems he's had, you take it day by day. It was the same injury that Al Ferof sustained and he has come back at the top level.

"He's done loads of steady work on the walker and is a horse that wants to be ready to run. It's amazing, but he hardly ever blows afterwards. He was going to come back at the top level or not at all, and I am really delighted with him. That will have done him the world of good. I'm really thrilled, it looks like he's still got it."

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