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Nicholls fears Crus threat

Big Buck's

A few weeks ago, Paul Nicholls' Festival banker would have been Big Buck's in his bid to claim the Ladbrokes World Hurdle for a third consecutive year.

But the emphatic Cheltenham win of the David Pipe-trained Grands Crus has given him a little to think about.

"Big Buck's had a racecourse gallop with Denman on Sunday and he's bang on course for the World Hurdle," Nicholls said.

"Grands Crus looks a good opponent, he's an interesting one, but there's no such thing as a two-horse race unless there are only two runners. You wouldn't know how good Big Buck's could be, really, but it's nice to have some good opposition and it should be a great race.

"You never know. If he doesn't win, then I can persuade Andy Stewart to go chasing next year, and if he does, then he can stick with the hurdles."

Ghizao remains on course for the Arkle Challenge Trophy, Poquelin the Ryanair Chase, and Pepe Simo the Grand Annual, provided he passes his final test at Sandown on Friday.

Join Together was confirmed for the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle, while Nicholls is leaning towards the Supreme Novices' for Al Ferof, an easy winner of the only event to have taken place at Newbury the Saturday before last.

"He has plenty of speed and is in the Supreme and the Neptune," explained Nicholls.

"I haven't really decided, but I suspect if the ground is good to soft he'll run in the Supreme."