Big Buck’s was a real ‘punters pal’, a rock-solid hurdler who was ultra-tough and classy and so often landed the odds.
Trained by Paul Nicholls, Big Buck’s was a French-bred specialist staying hurdler who made history in 2012 when winning his fourth World Hurdle, now of course the Stayers’ Hurdle, at the Cheltenham Festival.
He retired in 2014 and left the sport as a bona fide legend, one of the greatest hurdlers the sport has ever seen.
Big Buck’s raced from the 2006/07 jumps season, right through to the 2013/14 season.
In that time, he won four Liverpool Hurdles as well as World Hurdles, something that isn’t spoken about enough.
Big Buck’s’ Pedigree
Big Buck’s’ stallion, Cadoudal, was himself a very good mile-and-a-half horse on the Flat. At stud, he is responsible for not only Big Buck’s but also 2011 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Long Run.
Cadoudal was by Green Dancer who was more famous for producing top-end Flat horses, himself of course a son of Triple Crown winner Nijinsky.
Though clearly the very best of Buck’s’ progeny, Big Buck’s is a half-brother to Listed chase winner Buck’s Bank and is a full brother to Buck’s Boum, sire of course to double Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Al Boum Photo.
|Parents||Grand Parents||Great Grand Parents|
|Come To Sea||Sea Hawk|
|Bucks||Buckleby||Cure the Blues|
Big Buck’s began his career on the track at Fontainebleau in France in a three-year-old hurdle on April 1st, 2006. He didn’t win any of his first nine races at Fontainebleau or Auteuil.
It took until March 2007 for him to get off the mark, scoring in a four-year-old handicap hurdle at Auteuil before winning a Grade 2 race there in May. After 13 races in France, he signed off with a Grade 1 second before being bought by the Stewart Family and joining Paul Nicholls’ yard in Ditcheat.
Nicholls brought him out for his British debut in December 2007 when the still four-year-old took on older horses in a two-mile Newbury beginners’ chase.
He won that race and carried on chasing for the remainder of the season, winning three races including the Mildmay Novices’ Chase (Grade 2) at the Grand National meeting. It was clear to Nicholls however that chasing was not going to bring the very best out of this imposing type.
Having unseated on his seasonal debut in November 2008, he reverted to hurdling. Waiting until January to get going again, Big Buck’s won a New Year’s Day handicap hurdle at Cheltenham in good style.
He was then aimed at the Cleeve Hurdle on Trials Day which he won, setting up a crack very quickly at his first three-mile World Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. He won that, along with three more of them in a total of ten Grade 1 career wins. After going hurdling in Britain, Big Buck’s went 18 races unbeaten, putting him among the true greats.
Although he’d won the Grade 2 Cleeve Hurdle in the January of 2009, Big Buck’s’ career didn’t truly take off at the top level until six and a half weeks later. Then, he won his first World Hurdle at 6/1, reaching a handicap mark of 170. From that point on, he was officially rated between 170 and 174 for the entire remainder of his career.
Big Buck’s’ Grade 1 wins:
|Date||Race||Won By (Runner-Up)||SP|
|12/03/09||World Hurdle, Cheltenham||1¾ lengths, Punchestowns||6/1|
|29/12/09||Long Walk Hurdle, Newbury||3½ lengths, Karabak||1/2|
|18/03/10||World Hurdle, Cheltenham||3¼ lengths, Time For Rupert||5/6|
|08/04/10||Liverpool Hurdle, Aintree||2¾ lengths, Souffleur||30/100|
|29/12/10||Long Walk Hurdle, Newbury||6 lengths, Lough Derg||2/13|
|17/03/11||World Hurdle, Cheltenham||1¾ lengths, Grands Crus||10/11|
|07/04/11||Liverpool Hurdle, Aintree||5 lengths, Grands Crus||4/6|
|17/12/11||Long Walk Hurdle, Ascot||8 lengths, Five Dream||30/100|
|15/03/12||World Hurdle, Cheltenham||1¾ lengths, Voler La Vadette||5/6|
|12/04/12||Liverpool Hurdle, Aintree||9 lengths, Crack Away Jack||2/9|
Big Buck’s finished his racing career with win and place prize money of £1,309,055. While this is indicative of prize money levels over the jumps, it really doesn’t do justice to his career at all. His ten Grade 1 wins earned him an average of only around £80,000 each time.
Big Buck’s was initially bred and owned by Henri Poulat in France. He was bought by businessman Andy Stewart under the guise of ‘The Stewart Family’.
Stewart owned such high-profile jumpers as Celestial Halo, Cenkos and Saphir Du Rheu, but unfortunately died in late 2021.
The popular owner sent Big Buck’s after purchase to trained Paul Nicholls, a familiar team-up. Multiple champion trainer Nicholls initially saw the horse as a chaser, but sent him back hurdling in a move that would make his career.
During his British career, Big Buck’s was ridden a handful of times by Sam Thomas, AP McCoy and Sam Twiston-Davies, but was partnered for the majority of his career by Ruby Walsh. In fact, Walsh was on board for nine of his 10 top-level successes.