It’s not often that a horse unseating its rider at the final fence of major handicap chase can be seen as a positive, but that’s exactly what happened in the case of Big Buck’s. Having joined Paul Nicholls as a 4-year-old in late 2007, the son of top-class jumps sire Cadoudal was campaigned exclusively over fences during the 2007/08 season. Big Buck’s wasn’t a bad chaser; in fact, he was quite a good one, finishing seventh of 20 in the Jewson Novices’ Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival and rounding off the season by winning the John Smith’s Mildmay Novices’ Chase at Aintree, despite making several mistakes, on his first attempt over 3 miles 1 furlong.
On his reappearance in 2008, started 5/1 second favourite for the Hennessy Gold Cup Chase, but it was his bad blunder at the last that would, paradoxically, set him on course to become a Cheltenham legend. Sent back over hurdles in January, Big Buck’s gave Don’t Push It 16lb and a 1¾-length beating in a handicap at Cheltenham, beat Punchestowns by 4 lengths in the Byrne Group Cleeve Hurdle on his return to Prestbury Park three weeks later and the same horse by 1¾ lengths in the Ladbrokes World Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March, despite being 8lb worse off at the weights.
The rest, as they say, is history. Big Buck’s was to run up a sequence of 18 consecutive victories, including three more in the Ladbrokes World Hurdle, before his retirement at the age of eleven in 2014. Immediately after the Ladbrokes World Hurdle, in which Big Buck’s finished fifth, Nicholls said, “He’s going to have an honourable retirement.
It’s a sad day, but it’s good to end in one piece.” And so say all of us.