THE Solar Racing Stayers’ Hurdle is among the highlights of the Cheltenham Pageant.
Within the lead as much as this 12 months’s race, we will likely be taking a visit down reminiscence lane to look again at among the most memorable renewals of the historic contest.
2012 – Huge Buck’s
Paul Nicholls’ staying supremo conquered each Grade 1 underneath the solar within the lead as much as his 2012 World Hurdle bid.
Grand Crus, Punchestowns and Time For Rupert had include lofty reputations in years passed by – however all had fallen to the Ditcheat destructor.
Now, it was the flip of one other battalion of keen-eyed pretenders. They knew the duty that confronted them, however got here regardless.
Heading the record of risks to three-time reigning champion Huge Buck’s, was the ultra-progressive Oscar Whisky.
Nicky Henderson had stored his playing cards near his chest with what many noticed as his secret weapon, however now was his likelihood to unleash him into the large time.
A winner of the earlier season’s Aintree Hurdle, he warmed up for the race in most uncommon style by successful a ‘jumpers bumper’ over two miles at Kempton.
This was a really completely different take a look at, however one which his maestro handler was certain he’d respect.
Additionally trying to usurp Huge Buck’s’ crown was Irish raider Thousand Stars.
The favored gray had completed a neck behind Oscar Whisky within the Aintree contest however many agreed the three mile journey would convey out his greatest after his success on the distance in a French Grade 1 the season earlier than.
Within the pre-Wealthy Ricci period, Willie Mullins was simply beginning to grow to be a person to concern on the Pageant and his foremost contender most actually introduced a harmful profile.
Then there was the unconsidered Voler La Vedette.
Colm Murphy’s mare had been mopping up in lesser contests throughout the Irish Sea within the lead-up to the race, with a win within the Hatton’s Grace a very good marker of her capability.
Regardless of her consistency on the high stage, she was despatched off an easy-to-back 20-1 shot.
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Certainly, punters solely needed to find out about one horse – Huge Buck’s.
Smashed into 5-6f because the tape went up, he kicked off to a roar that carried each exhilaration and expectation.
As was typically the case, the sphere went off at a good lick, hoping to exhaust the favorite’s bottomless engine.
Outsiders Cross Kennon and 5 Dream took them alongside, neither sporting a lot hope of something higher than place-money.
The favorite, carrying these well-known purple and white silks of the Stewart household, sat simply in behind, with Oscar Whisky and Voler La Vedette protecting jockey Ruby Walsh’s each transfer.
Such was the benefit with which many of the runners went about their enterprise, nothing of any nice be aware occurred for nearly two circuits.
Approaching the downhill run that signalled the doorway to the house straight, Walsh, as astute as Jeff Bezos when using the Cheltenham undulations, had his mount within the good place.
With the vanguard backpedalling, he took the lead and picked up the tempo till finally solely Thousand Stars, Smad Place, Mourad, Voler La Vedette and Oscar Whisky have been left in rivalry.
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Facing up to the cacophonous Cheltenham crowd, Walsh began to crouch lower as he asked his willing partner for more.
Suddenly, though, a fourth title looked in peril. The eye was drawn to both Oscar Whisky and Voler La Vedette, both of whom travelled as sweetly as they had done from the outset.
This was Oscar Whisky’s acid test. In weeks leading up to the race, all the talk had been of whether he would be able to see out this longer trip for the first time.
And unfortunately for Nicky Henderson, the critics were right. Try as he might, the dashboard began to flicker, and as quickly as he’d loomed up, so his challenge began to fade.
That left just one challenger – Voler La Vedette.
Throughout the contest, jockey Andrew Lynch had given her a beautiful, waiting ride. Snapping away at the heels of the principals, he knew eyeballing Big Buck’s was where his predecessors had gone wrong, so he kept his powder dry until the very last moment.
As the two rivals approached the final hurdle, Lynch, with ice cold blood coursing through his veins, switched to Big Buck’s’ inner.
Relive Big Buck’s’ 2012 Stayers’ Hurdle win here
And with a hundred yards to go, he finally let go of the brake pedal.
Immediately, there was only going to be one winner. As soon as Big Buck’s realised his crown was in danger, he kicked into overdrive – just as he’d always done.
The foes, battered and bruised, fought tooth and nail up the run-in, but with a few painful metres left to go, Big Buck’s edged ahead to grind out his fourth World Hurdle on the bounce.
It was a familiar story. Yet again, he’d come so close to defeat and yet again he’d pulled it out of the fire.
The greatest staying hurdler of all time, as the tape flies up for the contest next month he will be fondly remembered – for laying down a marker few could ever dream of reaching.