Big Buck’s Makes Eagerly Awaited Return In The Cleeve Hurdle
The brilliant Big Buck’s makes his eagerly-awaited return to action in the galliardhomes.com Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham on Saturday, and the four-time World Hurdle hero is no bigger than even money to land this Grade 2 contest for the third time since 2009.
The 11-year-old has been sidelined with an injury since landing the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury 420 days ago, but the vibes emanating from the Paul Nicholls yard is that all is well with the record-breaking gelding, who will be ridden by Sam Twiston-Davies for the first time this weekend.
Big Buck’s is arguably the best staying hurdler in history, and if anywhere near his best on Saturday he will almost certainly register his nineteenth consecutive victory. But, under the circumstances, he can be expected to come on for the run, and this is far from being an egg-and-spoon race.
Indeed, the presence of Reve de Sivola, an emphatic winner of the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot last time, last season’s leading staying novice At Fishers Cross and Irish raider BOSTON BOB will ensure that Big Buck’s won’t have things all his own way.
On official figures, Boston Bob has a fair bit to find with his key market rivals, but Willie Mullins doesn’t send horses across the Irish Sea for the fun of it and the nine-year-old was mightily impressive when a minor event back over hurdles on his seasonal reappearance at Punchestown on New Year’s Eve.
He was a Grade 1 winner in this sphere as a novice during the 2011/12 campaign, and I reckon there could be even better to come from Boston Bob, who has only had 11 starts under Rules to date. Underfoot conditions at Cheltenham will be ideal and stepping back up to 3m will also be right up his street.
Advice: Boston Bon – 4/1 (bet365)
Trust The Doctor To Prescribe SkyBet Chase Success
Despite the burden of top-weight, Unioniste is a worthy favourite for the Sky Bet Chase, the feature of a good card at Doncaster on Saturday.
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Paul Nicholls’ charge saw off a quality field at Aintree in December prior to finding the company too hot in the Grade 1 Lexus Chase at Leopardstown. This represents a significant drop in class, but at almost double the price of Unioniste it’s worth siding with MART LANE.
Trained by the shrewd Dr Richard Newland, the nine-year-old responded well to refitted blinkers when landing C&D handicap in decisive fashion last time. He’s been hit with a 10lb rise for that, but this will be just his eighth start over fences and there could be better still to come from this Irish import.
The hat-trick seeking Kruzhlinin needs to raise his game to add to his victories at Kelso the last twice, but he’s clearly in good heart and has to be respected, while Night In Milan, another that scored over C&D last time, is also one to consider.
Advice: Mart Lane – 10/1 (Bet Victor)
Can Rocky Creek Book Gold Cup Ticket In The Argento?
The Argento Chase, a recognised trial for the Gold Cup, is the main race over fences at Cheltenham this weekend.
Of the seven set to go to post, the only contender with realistic Gold Cup aspirations is Rocky Creek, who ran a fine race in defeat when runner-up in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury when returning to the fray at the end of November.
On the face of it, the Paul Nicholls-trained chaser doesn’t rate bad value at a top-priced 13/8 for this Grade 2 event, but it could be worth chancing THE GIANT BOLSTER in the hope that the first time hood/visor sparks a revival.
David Bridgwater’s charge hasn’t been at his best so far this term, but he boasts cracking form at this track – not least when runner-up in the 2012 Gold Cup – and receives weight from each of his six rivals. At 7/1 he is very appealing.
Advice: The Giant Bolster – 7/1 (Paddy Power)