Double blow for Nicholls sees Big Buck’s and Al Ferof out for season

Big Buck's - No fifth World Hurdle this season

Big Buck's - No fifth World Hurdle this season

The Cheltenham engraver can probably inscribe the name Big Buck’s in his sleep, but he’ll have no need to write it at all when the Festival comes round next March. The horse has an injury, which has ruled him out for the rest of this season.

When the fates are against you, it seems they go for you in a big way, because trainer Paul Nicholls found out at the same time that another of his top horses, Al Ferof, has an almost identical injury, and he too won’t be seen again this season.

After evening stables last night Nicholls released the following statement on the Betfair website: “I have some bad news to report. At evening stables tonight, we discovered a problem with both Big Buck's and Al Ferof. I am not in a position to go into great detail at this point, but I can confirm that Big Buck's will not be taking up his engagement at Ascot on Saturday and Al Ferof will not be running in the King George. And both are unlikely to run again this season. When I do have more to report, I will be doing it here. “

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Big Buck’s owner, Andy Stewart, did elaborate on the problem affecting Big Buck’s. He said, “He has a tiny tear in one of his legs so the best way is to let nature heal that. To think he would need to tackle a Grade 1 race in three months’ time at Cheltenham, (the World Hurdle) that’s not my style. We’ll take a look just before the Hennessey next year and review the options, such as going back at Newbury and then on to Ascot and back to Cheltenham and Aintree. It is too premature to be thinking of retirement.”

In another coincidence related to the two horses, Stewart said that he and John Hales, owner of Al Ferof, were both likely to be in Barbados next month, so they might get together to commiserate with each other and talk over future plans.

Nicholls was quick to emphasise that there was no reason why both horses should not make a full recovery. He said, “I want to stress neither injury is career-threatening and they should be back next season. Both injuries are minor and I have learned the best thing to do in this situation is to stop straightaway with them.”

Hales was sanguine about the injury to his top grey horse, saying, “He’s won the Paddy Power Gold Cup and had a wonderful 2012 and just when you think you’ve got this game licked it kicks you in the backside. The injury could have happened a million ways – on the gallops, on the road – but it wasn’t done in the Paddy Power. He came out of that clean as a whistle. You can bet your life the King George and then the Gold Cup will be the plan in 12 months' time. He's still a youngster and has age on his side.”

For Nicholls personally, the biggest impact is likely to be on his chances of taking an eighth successive trainer’s title, but he’ll not be unduly concerned with that alongside ensuring that Big Buck’s and Al Ferof both come back fighting fit.

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