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The New One just Champion ahead of Festival target

Trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies believes The New One’s “phenomenal” turn of foot could prove to be the key factor to him landing the Champion Hurdle on the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival.

The six-year-old is currently the 3/1 joint-favourite with Coral for the feature race on Tuesday, March 11th, and boasts an excellent profile going into the contest.

The gelding has previous form at the Festival having won last year’s Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle, and that race has proved a decent guide to the Champion Hurdle.

Istabraq (1997) and Hardy Eustace (2003) won it and triumphed in the Champion 12 months later, and Rock On Ruby got beaten a short-head in 2011 before winning the big one in 2012.

Danoli, French Holly and Peddlers Cross also won the Neptune before going on to be placed in the Champion.

The New One also ran a blinder to finish runner-up to My Tent Or Yours in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton last time, where a mistake at the last arguably cost him success, and horses that have finished placed in that contest have a better record in the Champion than actually winners.

Rock On Ruby finished second before winning the Champion in 2012, and others to have gone on to Cheltenham glory after getting turned over in the Grade 1 contest include Granville Again, Hors La Loi III, Punjabi and Binocular.

Those stats are big pluses for The New One, and his trainer couldn’t be happier with his well-being ahead of his Cheltenham target.

He 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.”

Twiston-Davies added that he would like to send a team of 13 to the Festival but realistically nine were likely to get in due to race conditions.

Two of his other big hopes are Splash Of Ginge in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and Double Ross in the JLT Novices’ Chase.

The former sprung a 33/1 surprise when winning the Betfair Hurdle last time out and is 20/1 with Coral for the Supreme.

His handler said: “The winner of race last year was rated 148, while Splash Of Ginge is 142, only 6lb lower.

“He has improved a lot according to the form book. I wasn’t surprised by Newbury because he ran well behind Irving at Ascot when he jumped poorly – it was the wrong way around for him and still was beaten only seven lengths.

“This way around, he is so much better – it gives a little bit of hope. If he keeps improving, he can win the race. ”

Double Ross is a 12/1 chance with Coral for the JLT, and Twiston-Davies is hoping his experience will be a major asset in his armoury.

He said: “Double Ross has done lots of good stuff at Cheltenham. He will go for the JLT Novices’ Chase rather than the handicaps because there might be some improver lower in the weights.

“He is more experienced over fences than most of the novices. I think experience over the Cheltenham fences is quite important. He has been around there three times this season. Oscar Whisky does not look as fluent in his jumping. Double Ross can go on any ground. It is a question of whether he will be good enough. He will take the race to them, being up with the pace.”