Nicholls saving Big Buck’s for World Hurdle

BIG BUCK’S will not be seen on the track again until he bids for a third consecutive Ladbrokes World Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.

Trainer Paul Nicholls had considered slotting in another start at Prestbury Park after he took his winning sequence over timber to 10 following another laughably easy success in the rearranged Long Walk at Newbury.

However, Nicholls reported in his Betfair column: “I have had a discussion with (owner) Andy Stewart this morning and we have decided that Big Buck’s will sidestep the Cleeve Hurdle and go straight to the Cheltenham Festival.

“Taking in the Cleeve Hurdle was our original plan.

“But he will be given a break instead and his campaign with now mirror last season’s, with the Cheltenham and Aintree Festivals as his next targets.”

* Popular chaser Monet’s Garden has been retired and “is battling away for his life”, said trainer Nicky Richards.

The bold-jumping grey, who turned 13 on New Year’s Day, is critically ill after suffering an infection in a foot.

He was last seen winning the Old Roan Chase for the third time at Aintree in October, but it was reported after the race that he had a problem with a foot.

The injury became infected in the navicular bone area, which required several operations, but the wound has taken far longer than anticipated to heal.

The Roselier gelding began life in an Ayr bumper in 2003 and ran out a half-length winner.

He then won his first two races when switched to hurdles the following season before finishing second in the 2004 Mersey Novices’ Hurdle at the Grand National meeting.

He returned to Aintree 12 months later to land the Liverpool Hurdle, but he excelled over fences.

Monet’s Garden was triumphant on his first two starts in his novice campaign before finishing runner-up to Voy Por Ustedes in the Arkle, after which he landed a Grade Two event at Ayr.

The following season he won the Grade One Ascot Chase and finished fourth in the Ryanair before striking gold in the Melling Chase at his favourite course, Aintree.

He also beat Kauto Star in the 2007 Old Roan, but did not win again until the Peterborough Chase of 2008.

A 2009 victory in the Old Roan, and possibly a career highlight win in last year’s Ascot Chase, showed age had yet to catch up with the popular chaser.

He then illustrated back at Aintree in October – his first start of the season - that all of his ability remained intact when victorious for a third time in the Old Roan.

nLast year’s Cambridgeshire winner Credit Swap looked a useful recruit for Venetia Williams after making a successful hurdling debut at Leicester.

Not seen since striking for Michael Wigham in the valuable Newmarket handicap in October, he subsequently changed hands and was having to tackle an extra seven furlongs in trip for division one of the Widmerpool Novices’ Hurdle.

Connections had been concerned Credit Swap (4-1) would be a bit too exuberant, but he was on his best behaviour and only needs to brush up slightly on his jumping in the future.

Aidan Coleman came through to challenge at the last and his Flat class was evident as he quickened four and a half lengths clear of 11-4 favourite Alarazi on the run-in.

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