This looks a good renewal and it will have an impact on the World Hurdle market; BIG BUCK'S is fancied to make the most of the weight he receives from favourite Punchestowns and cause a mini-upset. The selection was perhaps a tad fortunate to win at the track last time as his main market rival Ballydub tipped up whilst still in with every chance. The bare form needs improving on but he was an exciting Novice chaser last season and still had every chance when falling in this year's renewal of the Hennessey. Stamina is perhaps his strongpoint and proven on the ground, it is not unrealistic to think that he may find the necessary 4lb improvement on official ratings to challenge Punchestowns. Nicky Henderson's gelding was all the rage for the World Hurdle before his run at Ascot in the Long Walk and even more so after an 11 length trouncing of Duc De Regniere. That proved his stamina on goodish ground however it will be interesting to see how he gets on in this type of mud (won on heavy in France mind you). Fair Along is a fine advert for the yard; the former Arkle second has been rejuvenated recently and he holds the selection on a strict form line through Don't Push It. Richard Johnson takes over in the saddle due to Rhys Flint being unable to claim in this Grade Two contest. Pettifour has come up short recently, including behind Punchestowns, but his trainer excels here, whilst the consistent and game Lough Derg is unlikely to hold off this calibre of rival late on. Blazing Bailey, a regular feature at the track and in these staying hurdles races is yet to shine this season but with the Festival on the horizon more will be expected from him today. A thrilling race, and Big Buck's can further enhance his reputation.
Blazing Bailey 4-1 (11-7) Chased leaders, hit 6th, reminders, led 3 out, soon ridden, headed before next, weakened, 4th of 11, 18l behind Punchestowns (11-7) at Ascot 3m 1f hdl Grd 1 (1) gs in Dec.
Lough Derg (FR) 9-1 (11-10) Made all, ridden after 3 out, challenged 2 out, ran on well, won at Ascot 2m 3f hcp hdl Grd 2 (1) gs beating Group Captain (10-8) by 1 1/2l, 18 ran.
Pettifour (IRE) 7-1 (11-7) Mid-division, mistake 1st, ridden after 10th, weakened after 3 out, 5th of 11, 34l behind Punchestowns (11-7) at Ascot 3m 1f hdl Grd 1 (1) gs in Dec.
Punchestowns (FR) 3-1fav (11-7) Mid-division, mistakes 3rd and 7th, headway 10th, led approaching 2 out, soon clear, easily, won at Ascot 3m 1f hdl Grd 1 (1) gs in Dec beating Duc De Regniere (11-7) by 11l, 11 ran.
Fair Along (GER) 8-1 (11-5) Mid-division early, tracked leaders 4th, ridden to lead after 2 out, clear when hit last, stayed on strongly, won at Cheltenham 3m hcp hdl (2) gs in Dec beating Don't Push It (10-7) by 6l, 16 ran.
Big Buck's (FR) 9-2 (11-11) Held up towards rear, headway when not fluent 9th, challenged well before last, soon slight lead, idled flat, driven out, won at Cheltenham 3m hcp hdl (2) gs beating Don't Push It (10-9) by 2l, 11 ran.
No Refuge (IRE) 11-4 (11-4) Held up in last pair, 4th and ridden after 3 out, driven and headway after 2 out, chased leader last, driven ahead flat, headed near finish, 2nd of 5, nk behind Lough Derg (11-12) at Cheltenham 2m 4f hdl (2) gs.
Turpin Green (IRE) 11-1 (11-12) Held up, chasing leaders when stumbled 5th, weakened 10th, behind when pulled up at the 13th in race won by Endless Power (10-0) at Aintree 2m 5f hcp chs (2) sft in Nov, 13 ran.