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Knock out blow for Big Bucks hits punters’ pockets

The Paul Nicholls trained horse lost for the first time in five years.

Big Bucks jumped the last in front today but couldn't hold on.
Big Bucks jumped the last in front today but couldn't hold on.
Image: David Davies/PA Wire/Press Association Images

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WELL IT HAD to happen sometime!

For the first time in over five years, the mighty Big Bucks has tasted defeated and at the hands of a shock source.

66/1 shot Knockara Beau caused a major upset in the Grade 2 Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham, seeing off some big named rivals to grab only the second Graded success of his career, sending trainer George Charlton home happy but leaving punters in a crumpled mess.

All the pre-race furore was around the return of the brilliant Big Bucks and the fact that he was partnered for the first time by Sam Twiston-Davies.

The whole saga of the jockey booking for the 10 time Grade 1 winner had rumbled on for the past few months and after the 11-year old, on an unbeaten run of 18 races, suffered a surprising defeat here, it is bound to rumble on for the foreseeable future.

Everything had gone to plan for the Paul Nicholls trained horse, cruising to the front before the turn in, before kicking for home as the famous Cheltenham hill beckoned. He strode up the hill as the horse of old, as his rivals began to come under pressure that is until the final flight appeared on the horizon.

It was here over one year off the track seemed to catch up with the brilliant ‘Bucks’, as he became weary, allowing the revitalised Atfisherscross and long time leader Knockara Beau back into the mix.

The three would go eye to eye on the run in, where Knockara Beau eventually came out on top to deny Atfisherscross by a short head, with Big Bucks a further 3/4 length back in third.

The winning jockey, Jan Faltejsek, punched the air after the line in a show of real emotion and delivered a much deserved hug to his mount.

Despite the defeat, Big Bucks’ trainer Paul Nicholls was delighted with the effort of his star turn:

“I’m thrilled with him, he jumped and travelled but just got tired from the back of the last. I toyed with taking him out before but if he’s going to win the World Hurdle he needed to run.

“He was entitled to get tired. I told Sam to go out and be positive and that’s what he did. He’s going to improve enormously and better ground will suit.”

Winning trainer George Charlton was also obviously over the moon and made the surprise announcement that the Gold Cup may be on the radar for his brave charge:

“He has been here many times and always taken home some prize money.

“He had a wind op three days after his last run and it’s obviously done the trick. The Gold Cup has always been the dream and the plan is to come back for that.”


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