A huge Cheltenham Festival cheer greeted Ruby Walsh as he strolled into the winners enclosure after taking his third consecutive World Hurdle putting up a performance that trainer, Paul Nicholls described as a “career best”. As expected he was followed home by the young pretender, Grands Crus who ran a great race but was not quite good enough to overhaul a truly classy champion. Grands Crus finished a length or so behind, but there was little doubt that Big Bucks still had plenty left in his tank and could have won by more if desired. Third home was Mourad who proved himself the best Irish staying hurdler around, although Quevega, winner of the Mares Hurdle here on Centenary Day might have something to say about that.
The race in actual fact was not run at a speed that suited Big Bucks or Grands Crus, with 50/1 shot Cross Kennon taking them along at only a moderate pace. He led effectively from the start and only lost the lead to Big Bucks, who had also ran prominently on the run in to the last. It was only at this juncture did the champion assert himself and once in front was never headed, despite jockey Ruby Walsh losing his stick as they went over the last. Grands Crus did threaten and just for a moment his challenge looked like a good one, but at only six years of age his chance will surely come again.
In winning Big Bucks became the first horse in the race’s history to win for three years running and became only the second to win it three times, the first of course being Inglis Drever a few years ago. The win gave Walsh his fourth winner of the Festival and it was a second for the Nicholls stable.