The New One and Sam Twiston-Davies head to victory at CheltenhamPICTURE: John Grossick
Authoritative win for classy The New One
Report: Cheltenham, Saturday
StanJames.com International Hurdle (Grade 2) 2m1f, 4yo+
THERE was a brief scare on the run-in, but it was a pretty easy success in the end for The New One as the 2-5 favourite saw off Zarkandar, who showed he didn't have the pace of the winner.
Jumps Road made a bold bid against the big two on the run to the last and finished third.
It was a peculiar contest and not one without incident. Sadly there were screens around the French raider Seabreeze D'Ho after he had fallen in front of the stands early on, and it was later reported that he did not survive.
The New One is now generally 3-1 favourite for the Stan James Champion Hurdle. Just William Hill and Betfred go bigger at 7-2.
Neither race panned out ideally for the first two home but such was their class that it didn't affect their finishing placings. Zarkandar didn't get as much of a lead as he wanted. After Hawkhill blazed a trail early he was a spent force at the top of the hill and the Paul Nicholls-trained six-year-old took it up.
It was evident how well the runner-up jumps, better than The New One, but as Daryl Jacob kicked for home on Zarkandar he was quickly swamped, not just by the winner but also Jumps Road, with whom he had a bit of a barging match going to the last. The incident cost Jumps Road's jockey Brendan Powell a three-day ban.
That barging match left The New One in front and Sam Twiston-Davies had to wake up his mount on the run-in as Zarkandar began to come again. The response however was impressive and in the end the winning margin was six lengths.
Winning trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies was celebrating a big-race double following Double Ross's victory in the December Gold Cup half an hour earlier, and he said afterwards: "We had to prove it and he proved it today. To quicken like that is superb.
"He'll probably have another two runs before the Champion Hurdle. The entry will be made in the Christmas Hurdle. I don't think he had a hard race. If he doesn't run there where does he go? We'd have to wait until February when it might be off. We will definitely look at it."
Nicholls was happy enough with Zarkandar too, saying: "Daryl thought he had a chance after the final flight but the winner had too many gears. He has run well considering he was knocked sideways going to the last. You don't like to see that sort of thing happening. It's hard to know what route we'll take with him now."