HE MAY have been off the racecourse for 13 months, but Big Buck’s is as short as 6-4 favourite to regain his Ladbrokes World Hurdle crown after the current champion Solwhit was ruled out of the race with injury.
Trainer Charles Byrnes was forced to rule out the luckless ten-year-old after a problem which prevented him from making his reappearance at Leopardstown over Christmas failed to show the required improvement.
Paul Nicholls-trained Big Buck’s, who has not raced since December 2012, is now an even shorter-priced favourite to rack up his fifth win in the race. The sponsors now make Big Buck’s a 7-4 chance, with Annie Power next best at 3-1. Ladbrokes’ Hayley O’Connor said: “Although the current champion won’t be defending his title, the return of Big Buck’s and a possible clash with Annie Power still whets the appetite.”
Betfred left Big Buck’s unchanged at 5-2, but trimmed Annie Power into 7-2 from 4-1 and More Of That into 5-1 from 7s. William Hill are, however, ducking Big Buck’s at 6-4. Hills spokesman Jon Ivan-Duke said: “Despite Big Buck’s being off the track for more than a year, his chances of regaining the World Hurdle crown look even stronger with the current champion ruled out.”
In Dubai last night, Artigiano was a promising third on his comeback run after an enforced absence as Mushreq made a successful return in the Singspiel Stakes at Meydan.
On his first start after being suspended for six months last year for testing positive for anabolic steroids when with disgraced trainer Mahmood Al Zarooni, Artigiano showed he retains plenty of ability.
Now with Charlie Appleby, the Godolphin-owned four-year-old pulled himself to the front under Mickael Barzalona early on in the Listed contest over nine furlongs.
However, he kept on gamely when headed by the Mike de Kock-trained Mushreq (7-2 favourite). Gabrial, trained by Richard Fahey, came through for second, beaten a length and a quarter. Winning rider Paul Hanagan said: “I was just so pleased. It was his first run back and there will be plenty of improvement as well.”
Appleby and Barzalona had got the best possible start to the Dubai Carnival with a double through Ahtoug and Fulbright. Ahtoug (6-1) collared Hototo to take the Logines Master Collection Handicap after the pair had the five-furlong dash between them in the final furlong. Barzalona’s mount got the better of Luke Morris on the Fawzi Nass-trained Hototo by half a length. “We were very happy with Ahtoug’s preparation and were confident that he would run a nice race,” said Appleby.
Appleby and Barzalona doubled up with Fulbright (6-1), who ran down Modern History in the dying strides to claim the Longines Dolce Vita Handicap.