Big consolation for Nicholls

Tom Peacock

Two Grade One winners but a disappointing run from Denman meant an eventful opening afternoon at Aintree for trainer Paul Nicholls and jockey Ruby Walsh.

Top of the bill had to be Big Buck's, who made it three in a row at the BGC Partners Liverpool Hurdle, just as he had in last month's Ladbrokes World Hurdle at Cheltenham.

The 4/6 favourite did not even come off the bridle as he trampled all over Grands Crus.

"Ruby said to me he felt the best he had ever been and I think that was probably his best performance," said Nicholls.

The Triumph Hurdle winner Zarkandar (4/6 favourite) did make slightly heavy weather of the Matalan Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle as Kumbeshwar pressed him all the way.

Nicholls said Denman was not suited by the track as the Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-up trailed in fifth behind Nacarat in the totesport Bowl.

Instead, this was the day for Paddy Brennan, who only announced last week he was turning freelance from being Nigel Twiston-Davies' stable jockey.

Nacarat's trainer, Tom George, provided Brennan with a valuable handicap hurdle at Auteuil on Wednesday and his flat track specialist (7/2) was always in command as he beat Carole's Legacy by six lengths.

Twiston-Davies' 16-year-old son, Willie, atoned for an unfortunate fall at Cheltenham with an all-the-way win on Baby Run (3/1 favourite) in the John Smith's Fox Hunters' Chase.

Wishfull Thinking, runner-up in the Jewson at Cheltenham, went one place better with a superb 10-length victory in the totepool Manifesto Novices' Chase.

Howard Johnson's Silk Drum ran away with the Red Rum Handicap Chase while Irish raider Russian War sprung a 16-1 surprise in a competitive Silver Cross Handicap Hurdle.