Four-time World Hurdle Champion, Big Buck's, and his Paddy Power Gold Cup winning stable mate, Al Ferof, were both dealt a cruel blow on Monday evening when an attendance at evening stables noticed injuries in both horses that would curtail their campaigns for the season.
Big Buck's, (below) whom had been targeted towards a nineteenth consecutive victory at Ascot this coming Saturday, was found to have a small tear in one of his legs on Monday with Al Ferof, a talented seven year old who had been targeting the King George VI Chase at Kempton Park on Boxing Day, also picking up a tendon injury that will see him take a minimum of twelve months off of racing.
Speaking to the Racing Post on Monday evening, Big Buck's owner, Andy Stewart, said "He has a tiny tear in one of his legs so the best way is to let nature heal that. To think that he would need to tackle a Grade 1 race in three months time at Cheltenham, that's not my style"
John Hales, who had tasted further Cheltenham success on Saturday with the December Gold Cup victory of Unioniste, was also contacted by the Racing Post on Monday evening. "We're certainly taking twelve months off. He has a slight nick in a tendon" said Hales, "The injury could have happened in a million ways. It's a big King George disappointment but he's had a wonderful 2012.".
Unable to confirm the exact nature of the injury, Nicholls released a brief statement on his column confirming the news that will rock the World Hurdle division and provide Nicholls with one fewer star in the Gold Cup division. "I am not in a position to go into great detail at this point" said Nicholls, "I can confirm that Big Buck's will not be taking up his engagement at Ascot on Saturday and Al Ferof will not be running in the King George. Both are unlikely to run again this season.".
In a season where Big Buck's had looked to hold an tight stranglehold on the World Hurdle division, it is a cruel blow to National Hunt racing that the four-time World Hurdle champion will not be at the Cheltenham Festival to bid for his fifth successive victory in the Championship race.
Similarly, it is a cruel blow that the potential of Al Ferof in the longer-distance chasing races will also be put on hold for a further twelve months after such a dominant performance at Cheltenham in winning the Paddy Power Gold Cup in November.
Photo Courtesy of Emma-Louise Kerwin (Goodtosoft.co.uk)