Big Buck’s drew admiring glances as he looked in peak physical form on Thursday at Exeter, where he enjoyed a racecourse gallop.
Pulling up after completing a circuit of the course with Daryl Jacob in the saddle, he looked magnificent, and trainer Paul Nicholls said afterwards he was delighted.
“That was spot and he enjoyed it,” said the Somerset-based handler. He intends to run the ten-year-old, who is unbeaten in 18 races, in the Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham in January.
Seven races were on the card when racing action started, with Blue Buttons kicking off the roll call of winners in the Racing Welfare’s Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle.
The five-year-old, running in the familiar colours of Richard Barber, extended her advantage between the last two flights and pulled away to score an authoritative win in the hands of Noel Fehily, with favourite Centasia four lengths back in second. “We’re very encouraged with that,” trainer Harry Fry said.
The Fizz Fund, a syndicate of four friends including trainer Venetia Williams, had the perfect excuse to knock back a few more of their favourite tipple when Citizenship won the two miles one furlong handicap hurdle race.
Charmaine Brooks, representing the group, said: “He ran at Newbury where the ground didn’t really suit him. Aiden [Coleman] used different tactics today, and this ground has really helped.”
Bury Parade planted at the start in the graduation chase, leaving three to head out into a torrential downpour and the long trip from Cheshire proved worthwhile for the Donald McCain-trained Desert Cry, who disposed of his two rivals to win under Jason Maguire.
The Tom George-trained Ballinvarrig just got up to beat Ray Diamond in the two miles three furlongs handicap steeplechase, and Tagrita made success look easy in the maiden hurdle. Trained by Paul Nicholls, the five-year-old mare set off a warm favourite and duly delivered in the hands of Nick Scholfield.
James Best has recently been top of the hot list for his winners-to-rides ratio, and the Cornishman was back in the winners’ enclosure again after guiding Midnight Lira to success in the mares’ novices’ limited handicap steeple chase.
Caroline Keevil, who saddled the mare’s full brother Bally Legend to win at the course last month, said: “She looked as if she was going to win at Taunton until she toppled over at the second last. She was quite sore after and had a few days off and some physiotherapy, but she has soon recovered.
“She behaves like a proper chestnut mare and when she first had her we couldn’t do a thing with her, but once you’re on board she’s on your side.”
The Eight Ball Partnership, a group of friends from Barnstaple, were delighted with the success of Cash Injection, who dug deep in the concluding amateur riders’ handicap hurdle to hold off the challenge of Robert Hawker on Bedouin Bay.