Nigel Twiston-Davies has often been a name synonymous with Cheltenham and the Naunton handler yet again sparkled at the Gloucestershire venue last weekend as he bagged a big race double on the second day of the International meeting with The New One, in particular, enhancing his claims a genuine contender for the 2014 Champion Hurdle.
Prior to The New One’s demolition of Zarkandar, the Twiston-Davies team were celebrating after Nigel’s son, Sam, had piloted Double Ross to a battling two-length victory over Cantlow in the December Gold Cup to send the flourishing jockey into the International Hurdle attempting to land a double on the card whilst cementing The New One’s place at the head of the Champion Hurdle market.
Stalking Zarkandar for most of the contest, Twiston-Davies was momentarily forced to get busy on the 2/5 favourite heading towards the last but last season’s Neptune Novices’ Hurdle winner duly quickened up showing a tremendous turn of foot to storm clear of the former Triumph Hurdle winner to win by six lengths. As a result, his odds to win the Champion Hurdle were cut in to 7/2, becoming the outright ante-post favourite for the feature race on the opening day of the four-day meeting.
Whilst The New One was the highlight of two days of racing at Prestbury Park’s two day meeting, there was an impressive performance from David Pipe’s Kings Palace earlier on Saturday’s card, with the five-year-old propelling clear up the hill to land the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle trial and the Pond House inmate was immediately slashed to the 5/1 favourite for the three-mile Grade One prize of the same name in March.
Day one of the International meeting also provided some vital Cheltenham Festival clues and it all kicked off with a mouth-watering clash between top notch hurdler Oscar Whisky and the progressive Paul Nicholls-trained Wonderful Charm, but it was the former who finally highlighted his potential over the larger obstacles and is now a 7/1 chance for the Jewson Novices’ Chase.
After a farcical contest last month where Oscar Whisky was beaten by Taquin Du Seuil following an almost walking paced gallop, Barry Geraghty opted to make the running on the Nicky Henderson runner and he duly outclassed Wonderful Charm in the closing stages and the Seven Barrows team will now aim to use that victory as a catalyst for more success for the eight-year-old over fences.
Elsewhere, Tom Scudamore produced a textbook ride on board former Welsh National winner Monbeg Dude as he pounced on the eye-catching effort to win the 3m 1 1/2f handicap chase ahead of Theatre Guide, for which he was cut from as big as 40/1 in to as short as 20/1 in the Grand National betting.
Paul Nicholls tasted success as Sire Collonges showed his versatility and landed the Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Chase on Friday. The race may have not had the strength in depth that it usually has with the likes of Balthazar King and Uncle Junior opting to bypass the contest but Sire Collonges, who is still a relative novice over the idiosyncratic challenge, showed a real relish for the task put in front of him and he is now available around an 8/1 shot for the Cross Country at the Festival, which has been moved to the Wednesday for 2014.