Big Buck's moved another step closer to jumping immortality with a faultless display in the Lough Derg Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot yesterday.
Victory in the Grade One event was the 14th on the bounce for the Paul Nicholls-trained superstar, moving him one ahead of Bula as he closes in on Sir Ken's record of 16 set in the 1950s.
Young pretender Dynaste set out to test the 3/10 favourite from the front, and for a brief moment going to three out Ruby Walsh had to niggle Big Buck's along. But normal service was soon resumed rounding the home turn, and Big Buck's, racing right-handed for the first time, jumped two out in front and sauntered clear from there.
The exertions in taking Big Buck's on took a toll on Dynaste, which weakened as Five Dream and Restless Harry took the minor honours.
"He's all class. He looked fat at Newbury and I thought he was a lot fitter today. He's such a character and you've really got to manage him. But he was really good today and I hope he will continue to be hard to beat," said Nicholls.
"We'll have to see, but I wouldn't have thought he would run again until Cheltenham. He won't ever go over fences now, he doesn't like them and he is too good at that job."
Walsh said: "He's an incredible stayer with loads of pace. He's just a very good horse. He's maturing and growing up. Going right-handed wasn't an issue, it might have been a few years ago but now now. He's incredible."
Elsewhere, Cannington Brook held on by the skin of his teeth to provide Tom O'Brien with a great spare ride in the Maxilead Metals Tommy Whittle Chase at Haydock. The winner is trained by Colin Tizzard, and his son Joe would normally be in the saddle but he chose to go to Ascot to ride Hell's Bay.
Still only a novice, the seven-year-old was providing another boost to the form of Rebecca Curtis' Teaforthree which had him back in third at Chepstow a fortnight ago.
Sent off at 3/1, he always looked to be travelling better than anything else and when long-time leader Pearlysteps fell at the last, Cannington Brook was left in isolation.
At Fairyhouse, Perfect Smile left his trainer Noel Meade smiling after an easy debut chase win in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Beginners Chase.
Ridden by Paul Carberry, the son of Anshan did make a bad mistake five out but had little difficulty accounting for eight inferior rivals, scoring an eased down three and a quarter win over Der Spieler.
Sunday Indo Sport