| 17.4°C Dublin

World conquest is not Quevega aim

AS recently as this column on November 21 did we discuss taking Big Buck's for granted and comment on how Go Native was after returning to his best form following a career-threatening injury.

Unfortunately, a week after that, Go Native suffered a fatal injury and is no longer with us and in recent days a career-threatening injury has knocked on the door of Big Buck's.

It further emphasises the point of just how difficult it is to keep a racehorse in full health for so long and how easy it is for them to be prevented from fulfilling their full potential or the lifetime ambition of owners, trainers or jockeys.

The absence of Big Buck's and indeed Al Ferof has created quite a stir and debate on Twitter and other forms of social media as to where certain horses will or won't now be redirected to.

The most discussed has undoubtedly been the chances of Quevega heading for the World Hurdle instead of a fifth win in the David Nicholson Mares Hurdle, a win that would equal the record of Golden Miller for five wins at the Festival.

Following Big Buck's' most recent victory -- his 18th without defeat -- the wagons circled both the camps of Nicholls and Willie Mullins, hoping for a clash between the leading stayer and the leading mare, who after her Cheltenham exploits has, for the last three seasons, gone to Punchestown to win the World Hurdle there.

The long and the short of that campaign was that Big Buck's was a bad traveller and wouldn't be heading to Punchestown while Willie Mullins wasn't in a rush to amend the plan that has worked so well for him in recent years.

Whatever chance of that meeting then, there is certainly no chance now and Quevega was then installed as the new favourite for the World Hurdle at Cheltenham in the absence of Big Buck's.

However, Willie Mullins seemingly ended the speculation that Quevega would not attempt a fifth win in the Mares Hurdle by stating that the best chance of her running in the World Hurdle would be only if she ran twice at the meeting.

Mullins seems adamant that she will head to the Mares Hurdle and aim for a fifth win in that and if that goes according to plan, and is as straight forward as previous years, he may then chance a quick reappearance.

Mullins has to consider his other runners for the World Hurdle too, of course, and with Quevega a likely odds on favourite for the Mares Hurdle, he looks keen to let her take her chance there, while letting Thousand Stars (same owners) or Zaidpour have a clear crack at the World Hurdle.

On soft ground, Zaidpour will come into the equation for the World Hurdle and there is no way Willie would want the Hatton's Grace winner and Quevega clashing.

Quevega is lightly raced and won't be seen until Cheltenham itself and then it will be on to Punchestown. It's a sequence that has worked very well, but she is clearly somewhat fragile and for that very reason, Mullins will be hoping to get her there in one piece and take it from there. Indeed, it was surprising that he came out and spoke about his intentions so soon.

Al Ferof's absence from the King George will open that race up a bit more as he had been second favourite up until Monday evening.

That morning Henry de Bromhead revealed he would be sticking to Leopardstown for either the Dial-A-Bet Chase or the Lexus but it will be interesting if connections do decide to step up in trip again, will they now reconsider the King George.

Willie Mullins is another keeping an eye on Kempton and that may be a route he goes now with Sir Des Champs rather than getting into another war with Flemenstar at Leopardstown. Again, another matter to watch with close interest over the coming week.