The inexperienced More Of That has upset the big names in the World Hurdle at Cheltenham.
Having just his fifth start, the Jonjo O’Neill-trained More Of That (15-2) won Thursday’s feature by 1-1/2 lengths from the heavily supported favourite Annie Power (11-8).
There was to be a touching moment of generosity in the winner’s enclosure just minutes after the race as Big Buck’s, a four-time winner, was instantly retired after his advancing age propelled him to no further than fifth and he was given a lap of honour in front of the crowd.
Annie Power had an unbeaten record more than twice as long as More Of That, and the form this week of Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh, as well as the implicit belief which they had in the giant chestnut mare, resulted in a tide of support.
Walsh attempted to settle her in behind his old companion Big Buck’s, whose pilot Sam Twiston-Davies made an earlier move from the third-last flight but had started to become increasingly urgent as the 11-year-old did not respond in his traditional manner.
While Annie Power made progress, so did More Of That and At Fishers Cross, who Tony McCoy had picked ahead of the winner.
More Of That responded to Barry Geraghty to surge past Annie Power with At Fishers Cross five lengths further back in third.
“It doesn’t get much better than this,” O’Neill said.
“He’s still a big frame of a horse really and coming to himself.
“It all came together nicely, it’s brilliant.”
A recovery from injury during 2013 had already ended the domination of Big Buck’s in the stayers’ crown but Nicholls was pleased to have offered him the chance of winning for an unprecedented fifth time.
“Younger legs beat him today. I could see halfway round we were in a bit of trouble and retirement is the right thing to do,” he said.
“We gave it a go. That’s what we wanted to do, but you have to be sensible and draw stumps at the right time and now is that time.”
His owner Andy Stewart said Big Buck’s would remain in the Somerset village of Ditcheat, where Nicholls trains.
“The great horse is not as great as he was when a nine-year-old,” he said.
“We have done as much as we possibly can and there’s no way we can improve on that.
“It’s been very flattering the way the public have taken to him.
“He’s probably one of the greatest, if not the greatest, staying hurdler of all-time, and it’s time to enjoy his retirement.”
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