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Big Buck’s was to miss Saturday’s race, and the rest of the season — including the Cheltenham Festival, where he was favourite to win what would be his fifth World Hurdle.

Nicholls confirmed that the injury was not “career threatening”.

Big Buck’s was found to have a “tiny tear” in one of his legs, so Paul and owners The Stewart Family, decided to rest the horse, though say it is “too premature” to talk of retirement.

And in a second blow to the top trainer, another stable star, Paddy Power Gold Cup winner Al Ferof was also sidelined for the season.

The John Hales-owned seven-year–old was found to have a similar injury when inspected by a vet. He was due to run in the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day.

“I must stress that they are not career-threatening injuries, and maybe we could have evengiven them both a month’s rest, and then kicked on again with them,” Nicholls wrote in his Betfair blog.

“But I have learned down the years to stop and sort the problem immediately in these circumstances.

“They were two separate incidents, and unfortunately these kind of injuries are part and parcel of the game when training supremely fit racehorses.

“With Big Buck’s, Clifford detected a tiny bit of heat on Sunday and that sent the alarm bells ringing. So Buffy [the vet] scanned his near fore tendon on Monday, and that confirmed a tiny bit of damage.”

He added that the horse will now have a month’s box rest, and then be given two-three hours walking daily until being turned out in April.

“Then he will probably come back in on September 1, with a view to running again next Christmas,” he wrote.

“Al Ferof also had some heat in a leg at the weekend and I imagine he knocked himself either schooling or working, and suffered a bit of damage. He will have the same recovery schedule as Big Buck’s, then go to John’s for the summer. Both horses will hopefully then be in a position to run at the Festival in 2014.”