Twiston-Davies: this could be New One's year at fourth attempt
Nigel Twiston-Davies is hoping 2017 will prove the year when everything falls right for The New One as he yesterday committed the nine-year-old to mounting his fourth challenge on the Stan James Champion Hurdle.
In three previous attempts The New One has never finished closer than third, producing his best effort three years ago when overcoming serious interference to get to within two and three-quarter lengths behind Jezki.
But with the last two winners of the race, Annie Power and Faugheen, missing Cheltenham, Twiston-Davies believes the race lacks the depth of previous years and could represent The New One's best chance for glory as he opted for the two-mile championship race over the Sun Bets Stayers' Hurdle.
"We've decided he'll go for the Champion Hurdle," he said. "It's not as hot as it has been. We haven't got a Faugheen in there this year. If you look at the ratings he should be right there. He and Yanworth are the top-rated ones and there is 1lb between them."
He added: "Cheltenham brings out the best in him. He was beaten eight lengths last year but we're employing different tactics now and if we can turn that round it would be very exciting.
"It'll be his fourth Champion Hurdle. He was very unlucky in the first one. Hopefully this is the year when everything falls right for him."
The New One has been beaten only once this season, when Yanworth had his measure in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton, while he enjoyed a record-equalling third victory in the International Hurdle at Cheltenham and most recently the Champion Hurdle Trial at Haydock.
"We're happier with him than we have been for a long time. He has had soundness issues in the past. This year since October he hasn't taken an unsound step.
"He didn't show his age when he won the International Hurdle at Cheltenham. He sparkled that day. He never seems to sparkle at Haydock but still won there. Back at his favourite course he'll be flying up the hill.
"He was desperately unlucky the first time. There's not many who would have survived that. He was knocked back further than he was beaten."
Twiston-Davies was speaking at a festival media day, where he unveiled a possible team of 20 horses for the meeting.
The trainer took his festival score to 17 winners with two victories last year and will have a strong candidate in three of the four major prizes with Bristol De Mai in the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup and Ballyoptic in the Stayers' Hurdle.
Bristol De Mai won the Peter Marsh Chase by 22 lengths but was last of three when taking on Native River in the Denman Chase at Newbury, a performance that Twiston-Davies said should be ignored after he was found to be lame.
"He didn't jump with his normal fluency and hung badly to the left. He's never done any of that before. Straight afterwards we thought we'd run him too soon after the Peter Marsh, but he was very lame when he came off the lorry. He's had lots of injections and treatments and seems 100 per cent now."
'What we saw at Haydock was phenomenal'
The stable won the Gold Cup in 2010 with Imperial Commander, but Twiston-Davies said: "It's impossible to do comparisons. What we saw at Haydock was phenomenal. If we'd taken that race to Newbury he'd have been a lot better but he wasn't in the same form.
"He's very much under the radar now, and I can understand that. I couldn't understand Imperial Commander's, but I can his because it wasn't a great run at Newbury."
A strong first day challenge will start with last year's Weatherbys Champion Bumper winner Ballyandy, the Betfair Hurdle winner who will contest the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle, in which he will meet Moon Racer, who beat him in his first two starts over hurdles.
"He cantered to the last in the Betfair and quickened away nicely. We have always thought a lot of him and can't understand why he didn't do better in his first three races. We checked his wind, we checked everything and nothing was amiss.
"Maybe with time he's got better and better. He won there this time last year but I'm really looking forward to it and hope we can take our revenge on Moon Racer."