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Page last updated at 15:37 GMT, Thursday, 12 March 2009

World Hurdle joy for Big Buck's

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Nicholls delights in tactical triumph

Big Buck's got the better of Punchestowns in a thrilling finish to win the World Hurdle at Cheltenham.

The 6-1 third favourite finished strongly to give Ruby Walsh and trainer Paul Nicholls another Festival success.

He jumped the last together with Punchestowns and although he made a mess on landing, he recovered well and ran on strongly up the hill.

Irish challenger Powerstation was third with the odds-on favourite Kasbah Bliss well back in fourth.

It was a fitting win for the six-year-old who had unseated jockey Sam Thomas in the Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup at Newbury over fences before being switched back to hurdles.

Two of the Irish raiders, Whatuthink and Shakervilz, helped set only a steady gallop - with Big Buck's and Punchestowns settled in mid-division.

Christophe Pieux was content to sit way off the pace on Kasbah Bliss but he made a positive move a mile from home, though by then Punchestowns and Barry Geraghty had taken up the running and appeared to be travelling better than anything else.

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Geraghty kicked clear in the straight, but Walsh was stalking and soon moved into overdrive to give a delighted Nicholls his first win in the race.

"He's a very good horse. I knew he had improved because the ground he won on over Christmas isn't his ground," said Nicholls.

"He just keeps plenty for himself and has won with his ears pricked. I was very confident we had him at his peak and he looked fantastic.

"Probably making a mistake at the last didn't do him any harm and he wasn't in front too soon then - he just digs deep. We bought him to be a Gold Cup horse, and he just might be one day, but it could be in two years' time now."

Owner Andy Stewart added: "I thought Paul was bonkers when he said Big Buck's was going to go hurdling."

It was the second day in a row that Walsh had claimed the feature race and he said afterwards he was confident his mount could triumph.

"I never jumped a hurdle down the back, but I was delighted to see Christophe (Pieux) arriving on the outside and not behind me," he said.

I was a bit worried because he hadn't run for a long time and I thought they might catch him out

Imperial Commander's trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies

"This horse has a huge engine, but he's quirky. When I got to Barry (Geraghty), he came back on the bridle and I thought I'd get there too soon.

"He fluffed the last but I always knew I'd get him back."

The win for Big Buck's was the second of the day for Nicholls after the fancied Chapoturgeon claimed the day's opener, the Jewson Novices Chase at 8-1 under Timmy Murphy

In the day's other races, Imperial Commander made most of the running under Paddy Brennan to win the Ryanair Chase.

The 6-1 chance jumped with great fluency and had most of his rivals hard at work after clearing the third-last and although Voy Por Ustedes looked a threat turning for home, Nigel Twiston-Davies's charge stormed away to win by two lengths.

Although the winner had triumphed in the Paddy Power Gold Cup over this course and distance back in November, he disappointed on his latest outing in the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day.

Voy Por Ustedes made a couple of errors down the back straight but kept on well to fill the runner-up spot ahead of 22-1 chance Schindlers Hunt who ran well to get third.

Twiston-Davies said: "He just gallops and jumps and he kept pulling out more. He could definitely come back next year for the Gold Cup as he won that race by staying."

Venetia Williams got in on the double act with wins from Kayf Aramis (16-1) in the Pertemps Final under Aidan Coleman and Something Wells (33-1), ridden by Liam Treadwell, in the Freddie Williams Plate, in which she also trained the runner-up, Ping Pong Sivola.

She then went close to a treble when her Pretty Star was beaten a length by John Quinn's Character Building (16-1) in the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup.


Ladbrokes World Hurdle (3m)

1 Big Buck's (R Walsh) 6-1
2 Punchestowns (B J Geraghty) 10-3
3 Powerstation (A J McNamara) 25-1

14 ran. Dist: 1 3/4, 17

Ryanair Chase (2m5f)

1 Imperial Commander (P J Brennan) 6-1
2 Voy Por Ustedes (R Thornton) 4-5 Fav
3 Schindlers Hunt (P W Flood) 22-1

10 ran



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see also
Cheltenham day three photos
12 Mar 09 |  Horse Racing
Master Minded romps to Chase win
11 Mar 09 |  Horse Racing
Punjabi storms to Hurdle victory
10 Mar 09 |  Horse Racing
Denman & Kauto set for Gold Cup
13 Mar 09 |  Horse Racing
The magic of Cheltenham
09 Mar 09 |  Horse Racing


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