Big Buck's hits new heights to seal third Liverpool title
Big Buck's took his unbeaten record to 12 races when he landed the Liverpool Hurdle for the third successive time at Aintree yesterday, almost laughing at the runner-up Grands Crus as he produced arguably the best performance of his career.
While Tom Scudamore threw the kitchen sink at Grands Crus, Ruby Walsh expended no more energy than he would in making an early morning cup of tea before going on to win by a cosy five lengths.
"Ruby said that was the best he's ever felt," said trainer Paul Nicholls. "Dan Skelton (assistant trainer) reckons he's the best horse we've ever trained at Ditcheat.
"We'll give him a good long rest and bring him back for the same four races next season with the aim of becoming the first horse to win the World Hurdle four times."
Nicholls and Walsh soon doubled up when the Triumph Hurdle winner Zarkandar won the Matalan Anniversary Hurdle, beating Kumbeshwar by a hard-fought length and a half.
However, hopes of a quick first-day hat-trick were dashed when Denman never looked at home round the sharp bends of the Mildmay course and finished a tired-looking fifth behind Nacarat in the Totesport Bowl.
Tom George's grey, winning a deserved first Grade One and the biggest race of the trainer's career, benefited from some exemplary jumping and a clever ride from the front by Paddy Brennan.
If a smile ever told a story, it was the one that stretched between Willie Twiston-Davies' two ears after the diminutive 16-year-old schoolboy, carrying nearly 4st of lead in his saddle, had become one of the youngest winners over Aintree's National fences.
Three weeks ago at Cheltenham he was unseated at the second last, when still in front, in the Christies' Foxhunter, but the anguish of that occasion was banished to a distant memory when Baby Run put in a faultless round.
Flicking off the top inch of spruce in a style reminiscent of Red Rum, Baby Run was poetry in motion, coming home three-quarters of a length ahead of Boxer Georg in the John Smith's Fox Hunters' Chase.
Patrick Mullins' experience on the runner-up should stand him in good stead for his National debut on Dooneys Gate tomorrow, but Jason Maguire's ride on Ballabriggs was hanging in the balance after he went to hospital for precautionary X-rays on his elbow. (© Daily Telegraph, London)