It can’t be too often that a horse unseating his rider sets off a record equalling train of success. But that’s what has happened with Big Buck’s. He had already embarked on a promising chasing career when he was entered in Newbury’s Hennessey Gold Cup in 2008, a race for which he had been the ante-post favourite.
Victories in three novice chases the season before, two at Newbury, and then in the Grade 2 John Smith’s Mildmay Novice Chase at Aintree, had marked Big Buck’s out as a horse with a big future. Then came the Hennessey, where a last fence blunder dumped jockey Sam Thomas on the floor, leading to a rethink about the horse’s future.
So, on New Year’s Day 2009, with Ruby Walsh on board, Big Buck’s reverted to the smaller obstacles in a Cheltenham handicap hurdle and won, with future Grand National winner Don’t Push It a length or so behind him. That set in train a sequence of wins which yesterday culminated in a fourth successive World Hurdle victory and equalled Sir Ken’s achievement from the 1950s of 16 straight wins over jumps.
What’s particularly noteworthy is that, with the exception of the first race, all have been in either Grade 1 or Grade 2 events. In setting up the sequence, he’s run at just four courses: Cheltenham, Newbury, Aintree and Ascot. Alongside his World Hurdles there are three Long Walk successes, three Sportingbet Long Distance Hurdles and he also has two Cleeve Hurdles on his scorecard.
In this Cheltenham of new records, Big Buck’s set his name in the books by becoming the first hurdler to win four Grade 1 events at the Festival. No wonder there were accolades for him form all quarters, with Peter Scudamore catching the note we’ll all want to sing. “He lifts you out of the mundane bubble of life, he’s a truly great horse. Arkle defined the Gold Cup and Big Buck’s defines the three mile hurdle.”