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Last Updated: 11/04/12 5:31pm
Big Buck's: As well as ever ahead of Aintree
Andy Stewart believes Big Buck's is as enthusiastic as ever as his star performer bids for an amazing 17th win on the spin at Aintree on Thursday.
The nine-year-old has won the extended three-mile BGC Partners Liverpool Hurdle that opens the three-day John Smith's Grand National meeting for the last three years.
The Paul Nicholls-trained gelding made Cheltenham history when lifting the Ladbrokes World Hurdle for a fourth time last month and tries to equal that feat in the Grade One on Merseyside.
"I wouldn't say he is better at Aintree as the fields he's been facing there haven't been as strong as at Cheltenham," said Stewart.
"Saying that, last year he beat Grands Crus one and three quarter lengths in the World Hurdle and then five lengths on the bridle in the Liverpool Hurdle.
"I think Grands Crus just had a very hard race at Cheltenham, and, albeit we had a race, Big Buck's just seems to recover so quickly.
"After this year's World Hurdle you wouldn't have known he had a race - he could have gone round again.
"Obviously he is feeling it because he is nine years of age now, so youth is just on his side but it's not quite the same as when he was seven."One day he will turn around and say I don't want to do this any more but I think we are miles away from that at the moment."
Smad Place, third to Big Buck's at Cheltenham last month, takes on the super stayer again and Alan King feels his runner has every chance of being the best of the rest.
"People say that we are attempting 'Mission Impossible' in pitching in Smad Place again against Big Buck's in the Liverpool Hurdle, but, while I am one of the favourite's biggest fans, I would like to think that nothing has stronger claims of finishing second than our fellow," he told www.alankingracing.co.uk.
"He produced a superb effort in the Stayers' Hurdle at Cheltenham and could not have taken the race better.
"He impressed when schooling over six hurdles on Monday morning and this week's rain on Merseyside is definitely a bonus. For Smad Place, the more rain the merrier."