By Simon Jackson
Nigel Twiston-Davies believes that The New One’s ability to finish fast could pay dividends in the Stan James Champion Hurdle on the first day of the Cheltenham Festival.
The Gloucester trainer referred to his stable star’s “phenomenal turn of foot” as part of an upbeat report on the six-year-old who heads the betting at 3-1 for the feature race on the first day.
Speaking at an open day today (Thursday) at his Grange Hill Farm stables, the dual Grand National winning trainer expressed his delight in The New One’s well-being as the clock ticks down towards the Festival, that this year takes place from March 11 to 14.
“The New One looks very glossy and happy. He is as easy [to train] as you can get. We have not had to do any racecourse gallops as we have the proper facilities here,” Twiston-Davies said of the Cheltenham course specialist who has bagged four of his nine wins at the Gloucester track.
“He is just a nice horse – totally uncomplicated. There will be pace but, if there is no pace, others will struggle more than us. The New One quickens and has a phenomenal turn of foot.
“Someone showed me some statistics. He covered the last two furlongs, over the same track as Hurricane Fly last year, unbelievably quicker. I don’t understand how to access such information.
“I hope his turn of foot will win him the day. We don’t know if he will win – he has never met Hurricane Fly and Our Conor.
The New One will be tackling the Festival for the third time, finishing a close sixth in the bumper in 2012 and winning the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle last year.
Yet it has not all gone his way in four starts since the 2013 Festival which have resulted in two wins and two close seconds, the most recent a narrow defeat by My Tent Or Yours in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton on Boxing Day.
“He was on an impossible stride at the last in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton – that was the problem,” said Twiston-Davies who expects to have nine runners at this year’s Festival.
“His jumping has been absolutely superb all along and it was just bad luck. The reason we got beat at Kempton was that mistake at the hurdle.
“At Cheltenham you can make a mistake at the last because there is the great big hill to put it right, but at Kempton there is only a short-run-in. He did very well to get back within a half-length of My Tent Or Yours.
“There are not many people who would disagree with me when I say he would have won if he had jumped the last properly. It was just hard luck. One horse was on a good stride and other wasn’t.
“Hurricane Fly must be the one to beat in the Champion Hurdle. He has stuffed the others twice. You make a case for us beating My Tent Or Yours and Hurricane Fly has beaten the others.
“It is less than two weeks to the Champion and things can go wrong. Hopefully they don’t.”
Read Horse Talk with Simon Jackson each day at London24 for the latest horse racing news.