Big Buck’s team ponder jockey plans for Cheltenham

Big Buck’s’ owner Andy Stewart insists there are many names in the hat to discuss with trainer Paul Nicholls before deciding which jockey will get the call-up for the ride on the supreme staying hurdler.

Nicholls (pictured) will consider possible plans with Stewart in Barbados this week, with Big Buck’s set to return in the Cleeve Hurdle back at Cheltenham on January 25.

Now 11, the gelding was prevented from bidding for a fifth straight Ladbrokes World Hurdle and continuing his sequence of 18 unbeaten hurdling runs with a leg injury.

Big Buck’s did, though, complete a racecourse gallop at Exeter last month and is expected to undertake another one before his reappearance.

With Ruby Walsh, on board for 16 of those successes, no longer Nicholls’ jockey and Tony McCoy, who deputised the other two times, likely to be claimed for a JP McManus runner, interest is increasing.

“I’m looking forward to talking it over with Paul with a rum punch,” said Stewart. “Paul has obviously got Daryl Jacob, Nick (Scholfield) and he can use Sam Twiston-Davies as long as his father hasn’t got any runners in there, so there are lots of options.

“Ruby might decide he wants to ride Big Buck’s and not Annie Power, or Annie Power might go for the mares’ race or the Champion Hurdle instead.

“Daryl has done very well with Celestial Halo both at Auteuil and at Newbury and I’m happy for Paul to make the decision.

“After all, I thought it was an absurd idea when he decided to run the horse over hurdles after he unseated Sam Thomas in the Hennessy.

“The one thing I can say is we won’t be hiding it under a bushel and whoever’s riding him in the Cleeve will be lined up to riding him in the World Hurdle.”

Meanwhile, Oliver Sherwood will wait until later in the week before making a decision on Deputy Dan’s participation in Saturday’s Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle at Warwick.

The Grade Two event, registered as the Leamington Novices’ Hurdle, was won by The New One 12 months ago before he went on to Cheltenham Festival success.

The race has drawn a classy entry of 17 including Nicky Henderson’s Royal Boy, Charlie Longsdon’s Killala Quay and Spirit Of Shankly as well as the Willie Mullins-trained Rathvinden.

Deputy Dan was second on his first two starts over hurdles before winning by 19 lengths at Chepstow last month and is well at home in testing conditions.

“I haven’t looked at the entries for the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle yet and need to discuss it with the owner, so I will assess it and make a decision on Wednesday or Thursday,” said Sherwood.

“He is in there with the idea to run, but I just want to see how he progresses during the week.”


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