Big Buck's picks up a perfect 10

TEN out of 10. A perfect round of hurdling saw the brilliant Big Buck's land his 10th consecutive hurdle and reaffirm his status as one of the best staying hurdlers of all time.

It is little wonder that the only X-ray machine that AP McCoy was prepared to submit himself, after suffering a wrist injury following a heavy fall in Ireland on Tuesday, was the scanner at Dublin Airport.

The 15-times champion jockey clearly did not want to pass up a rare opportunity to ride an equine superstar in the rearranged Long Walk Hurdle, and, coincidentally, a race named in honour of his long-overdue BBC Sports Personality of the year triumph.

Though the fog that enveloped Newbury was a bigger hindrance than the 12 hurdles, Big Buck's gave McCoy an armchair ride as the doughty Lough Derg set a searching pace.

However Tom Scudamore's old warrior was powerless to prevent the strapping 2-13 odds-on favourite forging clear after the last flight to record an effortless win.

McCoy was deputising for the injured Ruby Walsh who, fitness permitting, will be in the saddle when Big Buck's seeks an unprecedented third successive Ladbrokes World Hurdle in March.

His comments in the winner's enclosure were indicative about the class of a seven-year-old horse who could revert to fences next year ahead of a possible tilt at the 2012 Gold Cup.

"You don't even need to say any-thing about a horse like that you just have to look at his form. I hate admitting defeat but there's no point even trying to follow a horse like him around Cheltenham as he's just obviously the best," said the winning-most jockey of all time.

Paul Nicholls was equally effusive. "He's getting more assured and is older and stronger," said the champion trainer whose stable was completing a hat-trick on the card.

"He'll probably run in the Cleeve Hurdle (Cheltenham, January 29) now and then we'll go to Cheltenham. Ability wise, he's as good as I've trained – he's got it all."

And winning owner Andy Stewart, who sponsored the race, paid tribute to the horse – and the trainer's bold decision to go hurdling after Big Buck's came to grief in the Hennessy Gold Cup, ironically at Newbury, two years ago. It has paid off.

"It's a privilege to own him – he's a horse of a lifetime," he said. "I thought he (Nicholls) was mad to go over hurdles with him but on the basis he got that right, I'll always listen to him."

This was the mercurial McCoy's second Grade One triumph of the day – earlier he won the Challow Novices' Hurdle aboard Jonjo O'Neill's ultra-impressive Backspin with the highly-rated Al Ferof third in a rare setback for the Nicholls yard.

The Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham is the target, but O'Neill is keen for his five-year-old to gain more racecourse experience in the meantime.

A likely rival in the Neptune Investment is the Nicholls-trained Rock On Ruby, an impressive Newbury winner yesterday, while the champion trainer's Ghizao galloped through the fog to win the opener and become the new 5-1 favourite for next year's Arkle Trophy.

As well as Newbury, there were Cheltenham clues in abundance at Leopardstown where both Hurricane Fly and Big Zeb were imposing winners.

The former confirmed his supremacy over his old rival Solwhit in the Festival Hurdle with an impressive turn of foot, prompting bookmakers to declare the Willie Mullins-trained horse as the new 7-2 favourite for the Champion Hurdle, ahead of several noteworthy English contenders.

And, while the stamina-sapping ground was far from ideal, Queen Mother Champion Chase winner Big Zeb confirmed his status as Ireland's pre-eminent two-miler steeplechaser. An impressive jump at the last from Barry Geraghty's mount sealed the Paddy Power Dial-A-Bet Chase.

Big Zeb is likely to have one more outing before taking on Master Minded, the rejuvenated two-time Champion Chase victor and stablemate to the imperious Big Buck's, at Cheltenham in a classic Anglo-Irish struggle.

But will any horse, here or in Ireland, be good enough to stop Big Buck's? It's highly unlikely, judging by a performance yesterday that bordered upon jumping perfection.