Buck’s comes up trumps for punters

CHAMPION trainer Paul Nicholls and the Cheltenham Festival’s winning-most jockey, Ruby Walsh, pulled suffering punters out of a hole as Big Buck’s obliged as the 5-6 favourite in yesterday’s Ladbrokes World Hurdle.

The biggest surprise wasn’t that Big Buck’s proved far too good for his rivals, but rather the fact he touched even-money in the ring.

Perhaps, it was the fact the layers felt they had a chance of getting him beaten on the basis the ground was too quick and there was support for others in the contest.

But from a long way out, they knew that here was one heat where they, for once, were sure to finish on the losing end.

Big Buck’s, winner of the race as well a year earlier, never even remotely looked like hitting one of his famous flat spots and was bombing at all stages. Down hill to the turn in, he was galloping all over these and could have taken the courageous Time for Rupert any time Ruby Walsh so chose.

Walsh said: “I wanted to have a bit of company and didn’t want to be on my own too early. It’s a joy to ride him, he travelled super and is just a very good horse.”

Walsh is now two clear of Pat Taaffe’s record of 25 Festival wins as a jockey and received a special memento of his achievement after the World Hurdle.

Meanwhile Copper Bleu has often promised a bit more than he’s delivered, but certainly did the business in style with a gutsy display in the Jewson Novices’ Handicap Chase.

Formerly trained by Carrigtwohill man, Donal Coffey, he is now in the care of Philip Hobbs and was strongly handled by Richard Johnson.

Copper Bleu was tanking downhill to the straight and was produced to lead by Johnson over the second last. He did weave about a little on the flat, but never flinched and was comfortably clear of Othermix at the line.

Hobbs said: “I thought Dickie (Johnson) was brilliant, because the plan was to be handy, but of course they went far too quick.

“This was only his fourth race over fences and he has taken a few runs to get his act together chasing. He has developed a breathing problem over the last few months and that’s why we had a tongue-tie on today.

“There is a new two miles and five handicap at Punchestown and he could now go for that.”

Buena Vista, second in the race a year earlier and running at his sixth Festival, produced a terrific effort to go one better in the final of the Pertemps Handicap Hurdle.

A first ever winner at the Festival for rider, Hadden Frost, he bucked away in front and maintained a relentless gallop to beat Prince Erik.

Frost, who is a son of former jockey, Jimmy Frost, said: “He is so gallant and gutsy. The Cheltenham roar is awesome, I want it again.”

Meanwhile, Weld reported that Elegant Concorde, who disappointed in the Bumper on Wednesday, had returned a “pretty sore horse”.

Pipe completed a 322-1 double when Danny Cook drove Great Endeavour to victory in the Byrne Group Handicap Chase. And the day was completed when Ballabriggs, under a powerful Richard Hardiing ride, shrugged off top weight, holding on to land the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Handicap Chase.

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