Nicholls insists 150-1 shot Twiston-Davies is big rival for trainers' crown
Nigel Twiston-Davies believes it unlikely that his explosive recent form could lead to a first jump trainers’ championship after being tipped for a major title push by rival Paul Nicholls.
A string of big-race Saturday triumphs, most recently the Betfair Chase with jump racing’s current hottest star Bristol De Mai, have resulted in the Grange Hill Farm trainer sitting in third place in the title race behind Nicholls and Dan Skelton.
Last season’s champion Nicky Henderson is fourth, narrowly in front of Colin Tizzard, who will take the wraps off the mighty Thistlecrack in Newbury’s Long Distance Hurdle on Friday.
With seven months of the 2017-18 campaign gone – and only five remaining – Nicholls, a ten-time champion, believes Twiston-Davies, who is a best-priced 150-1, is a threat to all this year and wrote on his website: “Bristol De Mai’s runaway success confirmed my view that his trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies, along with Nicky Henderson, is a serious contender for the championship this season.
“Nigel’s horses are hoovering up most of the big Saturday prizes at the moment and he will be right in the picture if Bristol De Mai goes on to land the treble in the King George and Gold Cup.
"While I will be doing my best to beat him and Nicky, wouldn’t it be good for the sport if Nigel did become champion trainer? He has been consistently good at what he does for years and has a tremendous record, particularly with his chasers.”
Twiston-Davies, whose prize-money total this season of £738,189 is just over £128,000 behind that accumulated by Nicholls, said: “It’s possible I suppose, but unlikely. We’d have to win the Grand National and the Gold Cup, but we’ve got the horses for those races so there’s a chance.
“All our top horses have run this season – we haven’t got anything in hiding – while other stables have still to get some of their top ones out.
“But it’s been a great start. The horses are healthy and running well, and Bristol De Mai looks like being the best we’ve ever had.
“We’ll try and have a tilt at most of the big races – we always do – but you’ve got to be realistic.”
JUMPS TRAINERS' TITLE STANDINGS
1 Paul Nicholls £866,975
2 Dan Skelton £784,656
3 Nigel Twiston-Davies £738,190
4 Colin Tizzard £492,165
5 Nicky Henderson £489,677
Twiston-Davies’s big-race Saturday successes in recent weeks have also included Bristol De Mai’s Charlie Hall Chase victory over stablemate Blaklion at Wetherby, Splash Of Ginge’s BetVictor Gold Cup triumph and stable stalwart The New One’s Welsh Champion Hurdle victory.
He will be eyeing plenty more big races over the next few weeks, including Saturday’s Ladbrokes Trophy with Cogry, the International Hurdle at Cheltenham with The New One, the Randox Health Becher Chase with Blaklion and, of course, the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day with Bristol De Mai.
Henderson, who is 1-2 favourite with Ladbrokes to retain his title, is just over £377,000 behind 2-1 Nicholls at present, but boasts far greater ammunition for the major Grade 1 prizes with the likes of Altior, Buveur D’Air and Might Bite.
In terms of winners trained, Skelton, who enjoyed a red-hot summer, is blazing a trail with 102. Nicholls, on the 64-winner mark, is second-best.
Willie Mullins, of course, has yet to unleash his team of stars on the major British prizes, but is likely to enter the title reckoning at some stage.
Richard Johnson has done the groundwork for a third consecutive Stobart Jump Jockeys’ Championship, and leads Harry Skelton by 108 winners to 91.
Barring injuries, he will prove mighty hard to catch, but Skelton, with the huge support of his brother Dan, led the table for a while during the summer and simply refuses to lie down.
An untimely broken elbow, which is likely to keep Sam Twiston-Davies out of action for at least another couple of weeks, halted his progress – which included an Exeter four-timer on Haldon Gold Cup day – up the table, but he still sits in third place on 71 winners, three ahead of Aidan Coleman, and six in front of Noel Fehily.
Brian Hughes, buoyed by an excellent recent spell, has moved into sixth place on 60 winners.
The race to be champion conditional jockey is hotting up nicely, with talented teenagers James Bowen (22 winners) and Mitchell Bastyan (21) setting a strong pace at the top.
Ciaran Gethings and Jamie Hamilton are next best on 16 winners each.
Sixteen-year-old Bowen will has the valuable help of Henderson and agent Dave Roberts to propel his title bid, but Bastyan, who is based with Evan Williams, also has the support and ability to push him hard.
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