Nigel Twiston-Davies showed off his pride and joy, The New One, who led the string up the famous stiff Grange Hill Farm gallops for a media day.
The six-year-old, going for the Stan James Champion Hurdle on the opening day of The Festival, Champion Day, Tuesday, 11 March, is the horse he would love to see winning at The Festival.
The trainer said: “He looks very glossy and happy. He is as easy as you can get. We have not had to do any racecourse gallops as we have the proper facilities here.
“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.
“He was on an impossible stride at the last in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton – that was the problem. 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 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 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.
“We won the Champion Hurdle four years ago but the horse who was taken out of the race, Binocular, turned up again! Khyber Kim won by seven lengths I think but some apparition came and stuffed him. There you are.
“We are looking forward to putting that right. It would be great, especially with Sam riding. I cannot emphasise enough that with your son riding, it is twice the enjoyment. Financially it helps too, as he is part of the business.
“If The New One gets comprehensively stuffed, I would then look at three miles over hurdles. Big Buck’s is not going to be around forever. The New One could go over fences but he seems so good over hurdles why bother with fences. We will probably school him at the end of the season to see how he likes fences.
“I don’t think Sam (Twiston-Davies) has many weaknesses. His strengths – his balance is amazing and he seems to be a very good judge of pace.
“If a horse makes an earth-shattering mistake, you never see him move but most jockeys do. He does like to be handy in races but does not make too much use of them. He seems to understand when they are going too quick.
“He watches a lot of racing and other jockeys. One of his attributes is that he doesn’t think he is any good. He does learn. He is a very modest bloke.
“It was hideous three years ago. I would worry myself to death about him letting owners down but he hasn’t let anybody down and hopefully never will.
“You can think of a few trainers’ sons who have not been as good as their parents thought. I think we all agree that I have been lucky. He is a joy to have around.
“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.
“We have a very good amateur called Jamie Bargary. He won on Hunters Lodge at Cheltenham in October but was unfortunate to go the wrong way at Towcester when they moved the whatsits. He had to have 14 days off but, as this covered amateur races, he had nearly three months on the sidelines. He is an up and coming jockey and I think an awful lot of him.
“The horses have been good form all season. This time last year, we had a few coughing. We have not had that so far but it could happen next week!
“We have many less (horses) than normal. We have Same Difference again and perhaps he can win the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir again, we have The New One and the handicaps are there to be won. Let’s hope.
“None of my Cheltenham runners has been expensive. We have never had expensive ones so the 15 Festival winners have been done by tilting at rainbows a bit.
“At one time, in 2007, we had 120 horses and are down to about 60. It is down to the recession.
“I would like to send 13 horses to The Festival but, realistically, nine will get in.”