galliardhomes.com Cleeve Hurdle
|Grade 2, Cheltenham
3m, Class 1
|Saturday 25th January 2014|
1 Knockara Beau 66/1
2 At Fisher's Cross 5/1
3 Big Buck's 6/5F
6 ran Distances: shd, ¾l, 7l
TIME 6m 25.81s (slow by 44.81s)
This race was notable for the comeback of Big Buck's, the four-time Ladbrokes World Hurdle winner, after over a year off. Ridden by Sam Twiston-Davies for the first time, trained by Paul Nicholls and owned by the Stewart Family, the 11-year-old finished third when caught on the run-in by Knockara Beau, winning for the first time at the course on his 16th attempt and beating At Fisher's Cross.
George Charlton, the winning trainer, commented: "I was thrilled to bits with the victory but it was a very close thing. I wasn't sure he was going to win - I shouted and got the weighing room upset.
"He needs to front run but couldn't with Big Buck's in the race. We had a little wind operation on the horse - because he has been dropping his soft palate and hitting a fence coming down the hill. Three years ago he had a wind operation and then I had it done again by Ben Brain who has done a fantastic job. The horse did not drop his soft palate today. He was given a breather, went through the flat spot and got the confidence. This is why I ran him in the hurdle and off he went, galloping in his usual fashion up the hill. We are 30lb behind them in the handicap.
"We buy them as foals and bring them on slowly and Tidal Bay has been the star so far. We had some other good horses as well. The plan had been to go to the Kelso race on February 15 and then come back here in March - I have him in the Gold Cup and may just run him for the sake of it."
The winning rider, Czech Republic jockey Jan Faltejsek, twice successful in his homeland's top race, the Velka Pardubicka, in 2013 and 2012, was thrilled with his first victory at Cheltenham, the Home of Jump Racing.
He said: "Knockara Beau was always placed here - a leading horse in Grade Ones and very consistent - but not able to win one at Cheltenham. We have got a winner now. We have both learnt and hopefully we can keep winning races here. I am over the moon.
"He is tough and hard. I have won the big Pardubice race twice in my home country but to win a race at Cheltenham is better - I am so happy I have won today."
Paul Nicholls, Big Buck's trainer, said: "I am thrilled with him. He travelled with his old zest and jumped well - he just got a bit tired from the last. It is very testing ground.
"We could have easily took him out and saved him for another day but I was desperate to get a run into him before The Festival. It is second time he has been on grass since he last ran and I would have liked to have got another racecourse gallop into him. He has just got tired - that will improve him enormously. Obviously, we would have liked to have won but that will put him bang on for his next run when the ground won't be as bad as that."
Sam Twiston-Davies added: "We haven't hidden him and gone forward - he has travelled brilliantly and he has jumped great. It was just the last 50 yards - he got a little bit tired. He has had a year off and all the others had benefited from a run. I promise you he will run a massive race in the World Hurdle. Everyone expects so much from this horse because he has won 18 on the bounce. He is a horse at the end of the day - he is as likely to take a run and improve from it as any horse. He will come on from today. He felt very special as we all know he is."
Galliardhomes.com Cleeve Hurdle
£60,000 added, 5yo plus, 3m, Class 1
Going: Heavy, Soft in places
G A Charlton
|66 - 1
||At Fishers Cross
Miss R Curtis
|A P McCoy
|5 - 1
P F Nicholls
|6 - 5
||Reve De Sivola
|11 - 4
||Quartz De Thaix
Miss V Williams
|33 - 1
2 3/4 lengths
W P Mullins
|B J Geraghty
|9 - 2