Trainer Paul Nicholls has been speaking about his decision to give the ride on the record-breaking hurdler Big Buck’s to rising star Sam Twiston-Davies — instead of his principle jockey, H&H columnist Daryl Jacob.
Big Buck’s missed most of last year with a tendon injury. He had been favourite to win a fifth consecutive World Hurdle title at the 2013 Cheltenham Festival.
The 11-year-old horse is unbeaten in 18 races since reverting to hurdling. He was ridden in all bar two of those races by Ruby Walsh. AP McCoy deputised when Ruby was injured. Ruby stepped down as Nicholls’ stable jockey last year, to ride for Willie Mullins in his native Ireland.
Some commentators have seen Paul Nicholls’ decision to give the ride to 21-year-old Sam as a snub.
But in his Betfair column, Nicholls said that Daryl had “never given him the impression that he was mad keen” to ride the horse.
He wrote: “If he had, then he could have been on the horse in the Cleeve Hurdle [where the horse is due to make his comeback on 25 January]. End of story. And with [owner] Andy [Stewart’s] full blessing and agreement.
“There is no need for anyone to feel sorry for Daryl or read anything wider into this decision,” he added.
Nicholls said Daryl viewed the ride almost as a “poisoned chalice”.
“If Big Buck’s won, it was all down to the horse. If he lost, and that phenomenal unbeaten run with it, it was down to him. That is no way to approach any race.”
Nicholls also said that prior to ringing Sam Twiston-Davies he had approached Ruby Walsh and AP McCoy but neither was prepared or able to commit.
Sam tweeted on Saturday (11 January): “Thank you for all the kind messages about Big Buck’s.
“Can’t wait. Could be up a while watching all his winning replays, but will be a pleasure to watch.”