The rollercoaster that is horse racing couldn’t have been exemplified any more than if you were in the Twiston-Davies family at Cheltenham on Saturday.
The ever popular trainer, Nigel Twiston-Davies had two extremely impressive winners, a faller, a non-starter, a close second and finally a horse run out and crash through the rails when leading.
Contrastingly, his son, Sam Twiston-Davies had what seemed like a day to forget when well-beaten on five well-fancied horses including three favourites before the apple-of-his-eye The New One saved his blushes by convincingly capturing the International Hurdle.
Naunton-based handler Nigel Twiston-Davies was quick to heap praise on The New One after his demolition of some solid yardsticks in the International Hurdle at Cheltenham on Saturday.
He pointed out: “Just because he’s British, it doesn’t mean he’s not good.”
That was in reference to his main Irish challengers, in particular the Willie Mullins-trained Faugheen, who remains unbeaten and has a growing army of supporters.
Clipped into 3-1 second favourite for the Champion Hurdle in March in which he was a very unlucky third last year after nearly being brought down by the ill-fated Our Conor, Twiston-Davies believes his stable star has come in for some unfair criticism but is relishing the challenge of proving the doubters wrong
“In the papers, on Channel 4 this morning. ‘He jumps to the right, he does this, he does that.’ He’s good. He doesn’t need to be knocked”.
When questioned about the formidable Mullins inmate Faugheen, Twiston-Davies was full of fighting talk, saying: “Most of his form’s over longer distances. Will he have quite the turn of foot that this horse has got?
“I would like to think we can sit behind him, then gently overtake going to the last and bye-bye”.
Nigel Twiston-Davies’ fine afternoon continued with further success in the Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle trial with an emphatic 11-length victory for Blaklion, prompting his trainer to nominate a return to the track for the festival in March.
He said: “We hope he goes to the top. He’s obviously a stayer. He’d been a point-to-pointer in Ireland before we got him and he’s always been lovely, but we didn’t think he’d be this good.
“The Albert Bartlett will be the aim with him, but we’ll see how he is after this and look what there is for him to decide if he runs before then.”
Things were not all good for the local trainer though as the talented but equally frustrating pantomime villain Mad Moose returned to the track after an appeal to revoke his indefinite ban by the BHA, only to plant himself at the start and refuse to race again, much to the amusement of the crowd but also prompting Twiston-Davies to call him something a little unsavoury and retire him indefinitely.
This was preceded by his talented novice chaser Little Jon running out and crashing through the barriers at the fourth last fence when leading and finally a faller in the feature race as Splash of Ginge failed to complete in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup won by the Venetia Williams-trained Niceonefrankie at 16-1.
The ever-competitive Ladbroke Hurdle takes place on Saturday and with 22 runners declared and all the top stables represented expect this to be a tightly run affair.
Nicky Henderson earmarked this race for ante-post favourite Sign Of Victory after he cosily beat a decent field last time out at Ascot but the form hasn’t amounted to much since and he’s been found in the market at 5-1.
The springer in the market is the Harry Fry-trained Activial who has been well-supported from 14-1 into 6-1 since an upbeat bulletin from his young trainer, but again the form since his Grade Two victory in the Adonis Hurdle last year hasn’t been great and he could be overlooked.
It’s definitely worth siding with the David Pipe-trained Balgarry, who hasn’t raced for nearly three years but his master trainer is an expert at bringing horses back to peak fitness after a lay off to win races of this nature.
David Pipe would not enter a horse like Balgarry in a race like this unless he thought he retained all of his ability and was fully tuned up.
He gets in the race on a relatively lightweight and returning to his optimum trip of two miles after failing to see out two-mile five furlong in the Coral Cup at the festival nearly three years ago when well fancied, I would expect him to be a typical David Pipe plunge horse and go off shorter than the currently available 10/1.
Saturday: Ascot, Ladbroke Hurdle, Balgarry 10-1.