Paul Nicholls is getting Big Buck's ready for big challenges
PAUL NICHOLLS is hoping to have Big Buck's ready for action at the end of January.
The four-times World Hurdle winner claimed the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury last December on what turned out to be his only start of the season, after he suffered a leg injury.
Nicholls reports the ten-year-old to be well on the way back to full fitness now, with another World Hurdle on the cards next March.
The Nicholashayne, west Somerset, trainer said: "He's in pre-training at the moment. He's doing lots of walking and is probably up to about three hours a day.
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"He's due to start cantering the second week of October and we'll gradually progress to try to have him ready towards the end of January."
Should all go to plan in his return, Big Buck's could have a new partner as Ruby Walsh is no longer stable jockey, with Daryl Jacob taking on the Ditcheat role.
"Let's get him fit and wait and see what happens. There's no point thinking [about a jockey yet]," Nicholls added.
"He's going to run at the end of January or in the World Hurdle and, if Ruby has got horses to ride for Willie [Mullins], that's what he will do.
"I'm sure, if Ruby were free, he'd be only too pleased to ride him and so would [owner] Andy Stewart [be pleased], but if Daryl rides him in his prep race then I suspect he would stay on him. With jockeys, there's no point in making too many forward plans because a lot can happen.
"At any stage, if Ruby was available to ride for us and it all fitted in well, that would suit us."
Nicholls could also have a second-string waiting in the wings for the stayers' division, as Zarkandar was an impressive winner of the Aintree Hurdle in April.
He said: "I've got to talk to the owners but I suspect we will start him at two and a half, he was very good at Aintree over that trip, but we would dearly love to try him at three miles at some stage."
Nicholls has another star performer to prepare for a comeback in Al Ferof, who also suffered a leg injury in December. The eight-year-old won the Paddy Power Gold Cup last term and Nicholls is considering a crack at the King George at Kempton.
He said: "Al Ferof is back working now. He may have a prep race for the King George in November at Ascot, nothing's set in stone, but we're very pleased with him at the moment.
"I think he will stay and three miles will suit him well. Whether this year he's got enough stamina to get the Gold Cup trip is a different story, but he's progressive and stayed very well when he won the Paddy Power."