Big Buck’s was the undoubted star of day three of the Cheltenham Festival, becoming the only horse ever to win a third consecutive Ladbrokes World Hurdle.

Officially rated Britain’s best National Hunt horse, Big Buck’s had to dig deep to fight off young pretender Grands Crus, but the French-bred gave his all under Ruby Walsh to beat the Tom Scudamore-ridden grey by a length and three-quarters.

His trainer Paul Nicholls said: “I was nervous today because he’d never run on the ground. He wins by staying, but class won it for him today. It was an awesome display by both the first two and I think it’s a career best for Big Buck’s.”

Buena is back again

Repeat Festival winners were the theme of the day. Buena Vista, who has run here seven times now, took his second Pertemps Final for David Pipe and young conditional jockey Conor O’Farrell, and Albertas Run brought a smile to AP McCoy’s face with victory over Kalahari King in the Ryanair Chase. Albertas Run, trained a few miles from Cheltenham by Jonjo O’Neill, also won the race last year, and has a third Festival success to his name in the shape of the 2008 RSA Chase as well.

McCoy had got the day off to a fine start with triumph on Noble Prince in the Jewson Novices’ Chase. Trained by Paul Nolan in Ireland, Noble Prince is a good-looking son of Monjeu — who also sired the Champion Hurdle hero Hurricane Fly. It was McCoy’s 200th winner of the season and his third Festival success this week.

“He was brilliant and AP was brilliant,” said an ecstatic Nolan afterwards. “It’s one of the best feelings of my life.”

Someone not so used to the Cheltenham winner’s enclosure is Pat Rodford, trainer of Holmwood Legend, who won the Byrne Group Plate at 25-1. Rodford is due to retire from training at the end of this season, and his best chance of a first Festival winner was Sparky May, second to Quevega on Tuesday. But Keiran Burke, who is due to take over the reins from Rodford, galvanised Holmwood Legend up the Cheltenham run-in to score an impressive three-and-a-half length victory.