Nicholls dealt cruel blow as stable stars Big Buck's and Al Ferof ruled out for season
Champion British jumps trainer Paul Nicholls was dealt a cruel blow last night as two of his stable stars, Big Buck’s and Al Ferof, were ruled out for the season.
The former was due to run in Saturday‘s Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot, while Al Ferof was being prepared for an assault at the King George VI Chase at Kempton on St Stephen’s Day.
Nicholls told Betfair: “At evening stables tonight, we discovered a problem with both Big Buck’s and Al Ferof.
“I am not in a position to go into great detail at this point, but I can confirm that Big Buck’s will not be taking up his engagement at Ascot on Saturday and Al Ferof will not be running in the King George.
“And both are unlikely to run again this season.”
Big Buck’s owner Andy Stewart threw more light on the condition of his star hurdler. Stewart said on racingpost.com: “He has a tiny tear in one of his legs, so the best way is to let nature heal that. It’s just a ridiculous coincidence that Al Ferof has something similar.”
Meanwhile Leopardstown’s authorities are hoping that better-than-usual ground conditions for their €1.2 million Christmas festival will attract some top-notch performers from Britain next week.
Despite dispensing with the term “yielding” in its ground descriptions for some time due to international regulations, the Co Dublin track is re-employing it ahead of its main money-spinning week of the year.
“We are yielding to soft, soft in places, at the moment and I wouldn’t expect much change from that by the time we start on St Stephen’s Day,” Leopardstown’s boss, Pat Keogh, said yesterday.
A number of big-name entries from Britain remain in some of the six Grade One contests on offer over Leopardstown’s four days, including the Gold Cup favourite Bob’s Worth in the Lexus Chase on day three, and Countrywide Flame, and Darlan, who could take on Hurricane Fly in the Istabraq Hurdle.