The Big Question: What are the best tactics for The New One?
Connections of the leading Champion Hurdle contenders have a lot to ponder ahead of Tuesday’s race. The field looks certain to cut up to single figures for the second year in succession and there is no obvious pacemaker.
Willie Mullins could hold the key with Un De Sceaux and Thousand Stars but the former has looked an unlikely starter since winning at Gowran Park. Thousand Stars was beaten at odds-on at Leopardstown last weekend but has set the pace for Hurricane Fly in the past.
The grey looks the most obvious choice but there is a danger that he will be ignored by the rest of the field. Paul Nicholls is reluctant to run Ptit Zig unless the ground is very testing while Melodic Rendezvous also needs plenty of cut.
Jezki has always travelled keenly in his races but has only made the running in lesser company. Outsider Grumeti has always been held up and is not an obvious candidate to make the running.
The participation of My Tent Or Yours is under a cloud after a minor setback but he is among those that need to be held up. Ruby Walsh did a superb job to navigate a similar tactical battle at Leopardstown to win the Irish Champion Hurdle and he won’t be delivering his challenge until late.
The most concerned of all must be the Twiston-Davies team with regards to The New One. They have consistently argued that their horse is best coming late in a fast-run race but he looks very unlikely to get that now.
His rider elected to go on early in the Christmas Hurdle to exploit his horse’s stamina but was eventually caught on the run-in by My Tent Or Yours. The New One won the Neptune last year over two and a half miles but his chances will surely be compromised if he has to make the running on Tuesday.
The stable considered entering a pacemaker but decided that they did not have a horse suitable for the role. Will Sam Twiston-Davies adopt similar tactics to Kempton on The New One or try to hold on to him as long as possible?
The Twiston-Davies team have always maintained that the horse has a blistering turn of foot and their best chance may be to hold him up until the last. By his own admission, Sam has got this wrong in the past but has he got the nerve to delay his challenge in the biggest race of them all?