FIVE WINNING DAYS OUT OF SEVEN: Daqman was back to form yesterday with 24 points profit from Abnaki (WON 4-1) and a maximum-stakes banker on Jimbill (WON 4-7). It was his fifth day in profit from the last seven.
One day the Buck will stop. But who will dare bet against him when he bids for the Long Walk Hurdle hat-trick at Ascot on Saturday.
Big Buck’s will be attempting his 14th consecutive win, his 15th when completing the course, if you include his farewell chase success before that career-changing day at Newbury just over three years ago.
He looked all set bar a fall to win the Hennessy at the age of only five; yet another example of Paul Nicholls’ throwing youngsters into the chasing deep-end. He fell.
But that fall proved fortuitious for Big Buck’s, the Nicholls’ stable and a legion of punters who have followed this big-engined horse ever since; it prompted the trainer to switch him back to the smaller obstacles and he’s never been beaten.
This amazing powerhouse has travelled 40 miles over hurdles for his 13 wins at Cheltenham, Newbury (five times each) and Aintree (three).
Those placed behind him read like a racing who’s-who of the modern era of stayers: Blazing Bailey, Diamond Harry, Don’t Push it, Duc De Regniere, Fair Along, Grands Crus, Karabak, Lough Derg, Mighty Man, Punchestowns and Time For Rupert (to name but a few as they say), three of them previous winners of the Long Walk.
Baracouda (2000-1 and 2003-4) currently has double Big Buck’s store of Long Walks, but there has been only one other dual winner, John Cherry.
Four who triumphed in the Long Walk went on to the World Hurdle crown: Derring Rose, Baracouda, My Way De Solzen and now Big Buck’s, who is also on a World Hurdle hat-trick bid at Cheltenham in March.
Today’s long-distance hurdle is class 4 at Catterick, with Ravens Secret heading the handicap an incredible 64lb lower in the ranks than Big Buck’s, who is rated six-and-a-half stone better than the bottomweight, Carmela Maria.
That perspective is in one way a nonsense, in another a reminder that you are dealing today with animals of a lesser breed: you can’t rely on them; seldom do they run two races alike; when they do, the party’s over until they come down in the weights again.
The exception – and this should be your first port of call – is the young horse on the way up through the ranks. If you can find one.
Horses aged five to seven have won this 2.20 race six years out of the last seven, all carrying 11st 2lb or less. Right on the cusp of this weights parameter is Tippering, a tasty 13.0 on Betdaq, as I write.
Tippering might have won – and consequently have been near on top weight here – had he not tipped up at Ayr in March and he’s come back with two decent runs at Wetherby, one over a trip too short and last time with the going soft.
Everaad and Right Enough don’t need to improve much, and the two question marks of the race concern Gulf Punch (7.0) – can a four-year-old beat the older horses so high in the weights? – and Jumby Bay, subject of a Stewards’ inquiry when he flopped as 11-4 favourite first time back on a racecourse after two years.
It’s a tricky day of novices and beginners, so what of the nap? I toyed with Free Speech (2.10) at Folkestone and he may well win, but he’s 0-17 under Rules and his best run – last time out – was in first-time blinkers, which may or may not work again today.
Big Bertie is the ‘wrong’ price, offered at 11.5 this morning; he’s a winner without a penalty (badly hampered) on his close CD second in March. You have to trust that he’s fit.
Lajidaal (3.10) has shown enough to beat a motley crew: Ballyoliver was tailed off first time back and looks in need of another run at least; Black Mac is 0-22; and they’re claiming off Promised Wings.
Marias Rock (3.40), returning today for trainer-find-of-the-season Jeremy Scott, goes well fresh and, at a tempting 6.2, is a big danger to Spot The Ball for Jonjo O’Neill, who is 4-4 at Folkestone this season.
BET 1.9pts win BIG BERTIE (2.10 Folkestone)
BET 4.5pts win RIGHT ENOUGH and 1.6pts win TIPPERING (2.20 Catterick)
BET 5pts win (nap) LAJIDAAL (3.10 Folkestone)
BET 7.4pts win SPOT THE BALL and 4.7pts win MARIAS ROCK (3.40 Folkestone)
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