Big Buck's tops 29 entries in Ladbrokes World Hurdle
Paul Nicholls has Big Buck's and four others among the 29 entries for the Ladbrokes World Hurdle on March 13.
Last Updated: 16/01/14 12:19pm
The 11-year-old is undefeated in 18 starts over hurdles in Britain and captured an unprecedented fourth consecutive Ladbrokes World Hurdle at The Festival in 2012.
Injury prevented him from defending his crown in 2013, but he is on course to return in the Galliardhomes.com Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham on Saturday week, when he will be ridden by Sam Twiston-Davies for the first time.
His trainer Paul Nicholls holds a strong hand with Celestial Halo and Zarkandar, winners of the JCB Triumph Hurdle at The Festival in 2008 and 2011 respectively, also engaged along with improving five-year-old Saphir Du Rheu and Salubrious.
Reve De Sivola made it back-to-back wins in the Grade One Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot on December 21, beating Salubrious decisively by 10 lengths. The Nick Williams-trained nine-year-old has been in good form this season and also captured a Grade One contest at Auteuil in early November. He finished fourth in last year's World Hurdle.
Williams reported: "Reve De Sivola will definitely go for the Ladbrokes World Hurdle. He is fine at the moment and there have been no problems since Ascot.
"I reckon he replicated his performance there from the previous year. For whatever reason, he was just full of himself that day.
"He is one of these horses who goes through good spots and bad spots, and it just happens to be that he comes right at Ascot . He loves the course, loves the ground and enjoyed making the running.
"I don't know if he will have a prep run. I think last year's Cleeve Hurdle may have taken the edge of him before The Festival, but I don't like going three months without a race and you could say the run at Newbury helped him for the Ascot race - that was a 21-day gap.
"The options are the Cleeve and the Rendlesham Hurdle at Haydock, but it depends on what other people are doing because you don't want to meet Oscar Whisky-type horses.
"He will run in the World Hurdle no matter what the ground is like. Obviously, it will make a slight difference to his chance as he is better on soft ground, but is perfectly okay on good ground."
Owner J P McManus could be represented in the World Hurdle by At Fishers Cross, trained in Wales by Rebecca Curtis, and Jonjo O'Neill's lightly-raced six-year-old More Of That.
At Fishers Cross was undefeated in six starts last season and captured the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle at The Festival, but has been let down by his jumping in two starts this term, while More Of That completed a four-timer when brushing aside Salubrious in the Osborne House Relkeel Hurdle at Cheltenham on December 14.
Willie Mullins houses six of the 10 Irish-trained entries, with star mares Annie Power (3/1) and Quevega heading the sextet. Annie Power, also entered in the Champion Hurdle, is nine from nine under Rules, while Quevega has won the last five renewals of the Grade Two OLBG Mares' Hurdle at The Festival and is more likely to go for a record six-timer this year.
Mullins has also entered Grade One-winning hurdlers Boston Bob, Thousand Stars and Zaidpour, as well as French import Rubi Ball.
The Irish challenge could also include high-class performer Monksland, who has been off the track for over a year, Dedigout, Mala Beach and Rule The World.
Perhaps the most unexpected name among the entries is that of the talented Fingal Bay, a high-class novice hurdler, but unraced since sustaining a tendon injury in a novice chase at Exeter in December 2012 in which he crashed through the running rails three out.