It was a case of new season, same result for Big Buck’s as he blitzed his way to an 18th consecutive victory in the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury’s Hennessy Festival.
The Paul Nicholls-trained nine-year-old, who will be bidding for his fifth World Hurdle title at the Cheltenham Festival next year, never lost control of the race and asserted his dominance late on to score by nine lengths.
Big Buck’s set the early pace under Ruby Walsh, who registered a quick-fire double on the card, before stretching clear of the field.
While the contenders behind were frantically driving out their mounts, Walsh remained motionless on his superstar and the Andy Stewart-owned horse cantered to the winning post in impressive style.
Nick Williams’ Reve De Sivola managed a credible second, but never looked like troubling the leader, while Fox Appeal and Big Buck’s' stablemate Five Dream were distant finishers.
However, the rapturous crowd were here to celebrate one horse in this race, and he duly delivered at odds of 1–12.
Paddy Power remained unchanged at evens for Big Buck’s to win a record fifth World Hurdle title at next year’s Cheltenham Festival.
After the race, Nicholls was elated with the result and still believes his champion is getting better with age.
"I think he's as good as ever. He certainly looks better than at any time last year and maybe even a little stronger, too," he said.
"He's so professional now. In the past you thought he might be the one to get himself beat, but now he's so relaxed and straightforward. He’s such a joy to watch and to train.
"That will have put him spot on for Ascot and all roads lead to Cheltenham (World Hurdle)."
Nicholls confirmed that Big Buck’s' next destination is set to be Ascot's Grade 1 Long Walk Hurdle, where the partnership with Walsh is expected to remain intact.
The Irish jockey has only missed two of the Cadoudal-sired horse’s 18 successive wins, and he too was cheerful about today's display: "As soon as he gets to the races, he switches on and is just fantastic. He was awesome today.
“He's a bit of an oddball, but they say that about all geniuses. He's a brilliant horse."