Nicholls confident over Buck's future
Paul Nicholls is confident Big Buck's can return to full fitness after his record- breaking hurdler was ruled out for the season.
Both the four-time Cheltenham Festival World Hurdle winner and chaser Al Ferof suffered leg injuries at Nicholls' Ditcheat yard on Monday and the trainer confirmed neither would run again this season.
Big Buck's had been primed for a 19th consecutive win in Ascot's Long Walk Hurdle on Saturday, while Al Ferof was among the leading contenders for the King George VI Chase on Boxing Day.
The news comes just a week after legendary chaser Kauto Star left Nicholls' yard ahead of a new career in dressage.
"You are always living on the edge with racehorses and we have unfortunately lost Big Buck's and Al Ferof for the season," Nicholls posted on his betfair.com blog.
"I must stress that they are not career-threatening injuries. Maybe we could have even given them both a month's rest and then kicked on again with them.
"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.
"With high-profile horses, we had a duty to inform the public as soon as the injuries were confirmed and after I had spoken to the owners.
"[Head lad] Clifford [Baker] is brilliant with legs and he first detected something possibly wasn't quite right with the horses on Sunday. He wasn't overly-happy with them, so we called in [vet] Buffy to look at them and do some scans.
"When they came back and confirmed what we suspected, I immediately spoke to everyone concerned.
"Both Andy Stewart and John Hales have been in the game a long time and both were as calm and understanding as I would have expected of two such professionals.
"Big Buck's will be given a month's box rest and then be given two to three hours walking daily until the ground is better in April when we will turn him out.
"Then he will probably come back in on September 1, with a view to running again next Christmas.
"Al Ferof is potentially so good that we will take our time with him. He will have the same recovery schedule.
"Both horses will hopefully then be in a position to run at the Festival in 2014."
Kauto Stone will now be Nicholls' leading entrant in the Boxing Day showpiece at Kempton as he bids to follow in the footsteps of five-time winner, half-brother Kauto Star.
"Ruby Walsh will ride Kauto Stone in the King George and, looking at the World Hurdle, we have Wonderful Charm, Prospect Wells and perhaps even Tidal Bay to consider for that race," Nicholls added.
"You learn to live with disappointments in this game.
"It is how you respond to them that marks out the resolve of the man and the stable."