Father and son team Nigel and Sam Twiston-Davies dominated proceedings at Cheltenham on Saturday as they lifted the two big prizes of the day with The New One and Double Ross.
While Double Ross’s courageous victory in the Stewart Family Thank You Gold Cup will certainly have boosted the stable coffers, the success of stable star The New One in the StanJames.com International Hurdle could prove one of the keys to the season.
The New One is now 3-1 favourite with Coral and Ladbrokes for the Champion Hurdle after what was a match on paper with the classy Zarkandar, last year’s winner who came out half a length ahead when the pair met at Aintree over two and a half miles in April.
Now out of novice company, the 2-5 market leader delivered a fairly devastating finishing kick when Zarkandar pressed him, conjuring six lengths from almost nothing on the run for the last.
A proud Nigel said: “It’s different class. Having the boy on board makes it extra special.
“Winning races with Carl (Llewellyn) who is my best mate was great, but that is an extra bit again.
“What I loved was when the other horse got to him he quickened away – that was Champion Hurdle-type acceleration. To run off a good pace and quicken like that is superb.”
Twiston-Davies will now produce The New One again in the williamhill.com Christmas Hurdle at Kempton on Boxing Day.
“He’ll have the entry and as long as he is 100 per cent he will go, as there’s so few races for him otherwise. You’d have to wait until February,” he said.
As The New One is regarded by Twiston-Davies as about the best he has trained along with Imperial Commander, the same would not apply to Double Ross, who plays more of a supporting role for Grange Hill Farm.
This was, though, their first victory after countless placed efforts in the valuable Grade Three handicap over two miles and five furlongs as 7-1 shot Double Ross repelled the late challenge of Cantlow by two lengths. To cap a great weekend for the family it was announced yesterday that Sam’s younger brother, Willy, had been appointed as stable jockey to Mick Channon on the Flat.
All roads lead back to Cheltenham in March for Kings Palace following his slick front-running display in the Novices’ Hurdle. The Grade Two heat is a trial event for the three-mile contest of the same name at the Festival and that is firmly on Kings Palace’s radar, along with a possible entry in the shorter Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle, after an impressive victory by the 10-11 favourite.
Jonjo O’Neill chalked up his 100th winner of the season as full brothers More Of That and Eastlake both hit the mark under Tony McCoy. More Of That (11-4) extended his unbeaten record to four and graduated to Grade Two company as he saw off Salubrious by two and a quarter lengths in the Osborne House Relkeel Hurdle.
Eastlake (5-1 favourite) had hit the mark in the Jenny Mould Memorial Handicap Chase, outbattling old stager French Opera to gain the day by a length.
Paul Nicholls’ Sam Winner made every yard of the running in the Novices’ Chase, seeing off the game Le Bec by four lengths after a good tussle on the run-in.
Evan Williams sprang a 33-1 shock with Ballyglasheen in the JCB Triumph Hurdle Trial, but the trainer does not rate his Festival chances too highly at this stage. Nick Williams might have slightly higher Festival hopes for Fox Norton after his win in the BetVictor Summit Juvenile Hurdle at Doncaster.
In Ireland yesterday the Grade One Navan Novice Hurdle disappointingly turned into a match between Briar Hill and Azorian after the Noel Meade duo of Apache Stronghold and Very Wood were taken out in the morning.
Champion Bumper winner Briar Hill was sent off the 1-4 favourite and while for a few strides Azorian looked a danger in the straight, Briar Hill ultimately ran out a convincing winner.