GC Festival File: New One all class
What better way to offset the moody weather than a glance back on recent events and a look forward to springtime at Cheltenham? Graham Cunningham was on duty for Racing UK and Channel 4 at Huntingdon and Warwick over the weekend and found plenty to enthuse over from two very progressive young hurdlers, as we bring you part three of his 2013 Festival File.
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NEPTUNE INVESTMENT NOVICES' HURDLE
The New One has plenty in his favour as a Festival hope
Yes, I know Saturday's Grade 2 novice event at Warwick didn't look that strong beforehand and main rival Dursey Sound blundered his chance away, but The New One confirmed that he is right up there with the best British novices by taking command of a slowly-run race a long way out to score by 16 lengths while value for 20-plus.
It's 6/1 the field for the Neptune Novices' Hurdle on March 13th and sorting the wheat from the chaff is complex, but do bear the following in mind.
First, The New One is almost certainly being aimed at the race whereas it's very tough to pin down which Festival events that other leading novices such as Pont Alexandre, Puffin Billy, Un Atout and Gevrey Chambertin will end up in.
Second, winners of the Warwick contest have done well in the Neptune, with No Refuge going on to land it and Inglis Drever finishing an unlucky second.
And third, The New One has swiftly developed into an extremely professional racehorse for one so young and his uncomplicated style and enthusiasm will be very much in his favour if he clashes with Puffin Billy at Cheltenham on Trials Day.
The old cliche that "X would be a shorter price if he was trained by Nicholls, Henderson or Mullins" gets a bit tired at times.
But it does ring true on certain occasions - and this is probably one of them.
"The New One has swiftly developed into an extremely professional racehorse for one so young and his uncomplicated style and enthusiasm will be very much in his favour if he clashes with Puffin Billy at Cheltenham on Trials Day."
GC on The New One
SUPREME NOVICES' HURDLE
My Tent supporters could be happy campers at Newbury and Cheltenham
Last week was informative as regards the Festival opener, with ante-post favourite Jezki being bought by JP McManus and Cause Of Causes and My Tent Or Yours both continuing their progress by winning at Navan and Huntingdon respectively.
Jezki's transfer deal clearly won't impact on his Cheltenham chance, but it will impact on his route there as it now seems he will go straight to the Fez without a run in Leopardstown's Deloitte Hurdle.
By contrast, Cause Of Causes and My Tent Or Yours are both inked in for Newbury's Betfair Hurdle on February 9 next.
Cause Of Causes is already a proven force in big handicaps and showed bags of spirit to thwart the tenderly-ridden Midnight Game at Navan on Sunday, but I'm not keen on him for Newbury or Cheltenham at this stage for the simple reason that I don't think he will be quite quick enough.
By contrast, My Tent Or Yours has speed aplenty and he thrashed some above-average novices at Huntingdon to look value for at least double the official margin of seven lengths.
McManus and Henderson would have almost certainly won last year's Betfair Hurdle but for Darlan's heavy fall two out and My Tent Or Yours heads to Newbury with very strong claims, especially if left on his current mark of 140 with the likes of stablemate Petit Robin and JPs 2012 runner-up Get Me Out Of Here likely to keep his weight down.
However, MTOY has been backed down to 9/2 for a Newbury race which is rammed with potential dangers.
He's trading at 14/1 in a place for the Supreme and that looks too big.
Jezki's two Grade One wins make him a major danger, but I'm not that keen on another leading fancy Dodging Bullets and River Maigue's form thus far doesn't read so well as MTOY's.
Add in the fact that the well fancied Puffin Billy may be Neptune-bound and it's likely there is some value to be found at double figures in the Supreme market.
My Tent Or Yours looks made for a fast-run two miles on spring ground and a bold run at Newbury will see his Cheltenham odds shrink appreciably.
Overturn might just bend it like Becks at Cheltenham again
Finding fault with Overturn is a bit like criticising David Beckham in that they've both been around for ages and seem capable of excelling at whatever they turn their hand to.
And, having originally been lukewarm about the way Donald McCain's gelding made it two from two over fences at Doncaster last week, I simply can't bring myself to crab him.
Making all in the Arkle Chase is a very tall order, especially with a powerful presence like Simonsig stalking you, but Overturn thrashed the useful Conquisto on Town Moor and jumped with terrific zest again.
At this stage I would have him ahead of the main Irish Arkle hope and fellow front-runner Arvika Ligeonniere as I suspect he might be better equipped for Cheltenham than that gelding.
Sprinter Sacre scared off all bar five in last year's Arkle and it could be that Simonsig will do something very similar this time around.
It's clear Hendo is keen to send his other star novice Captain Conan down the Jewson route if possible, while Tetlami made an encouraging start to his chasing career at Kempton on Saturday but still has much to prove at championship level.
However, the Dapper Don has stressed that he fears nothing with a horse who has finished second in last year's Champion Hurdle and never gives anything other than all he has.
In my heart I suspect Simonsig is a genuine top-notcher who might just be too good on March 12th.
But Overturn is a tremendous sight in full flow and nothing would give me a bigger kick than seeing him ignite this year's Arkle by letting rip on good ground this March.
"Making all in the Arkle Chase is a very tall order, especially with a powerful presence like Simonsig stalking you, but Overturn thrashed the useful Conquisto on Town Moor and jumped with terrific zest again."
GC on Overturn
Sam is the man - but not as often as he should be
There were plenty more potential Festival clues on offer at the weekend.
Rocky Creek couldn't cut the mustard over hurdles at last year's Festival but promises to fare much better in this year's RSA Chase based on his smooth Warwick success, while Oscara Dara travelled like a dream for most of Kempton's Lanzarote Hurdle and may not go up as much as he deserves to for the Coral Cup given that a jarring error at the last kept what looked likely to be a wide-margin success down to just three and a half lengths.
However, the other star to shine over the weekend was Sam Twiston-Davies.
Granted, any number of riders would have won easily on The New One (and impressive bumper winner Pure Science, for that matter) but Twiston-Davies remains a coming force despite the fact that he still gets far fewer outside rides than the other three riders currently fighting out a healthy battle for fourth place in the jockeys' table behind the big three of McCoy, Johnson and Maguire.
For the record, Sam has had 60 fewer outside rides than Aidan Coleman this season and 73 and 122 fewer than Tom Scudamore and Nick Scholfield.
My C4 colleague Mick Fitzgerald feels his family connection works against him in this regard - and he's almost certainly right - but Sam Twiston-Davies deserves to be far more than a one stable rider.
And trainers who ignore him because they might fear losing their horse down the road are missing out on a special young talent.
Stewards' Inquiry, Stewards inquiry
It's always fun to take a gander at the Racing Post's "Tweet of the Day" to see which jockey or trainer is having a bit of fun at the expense of their friends and colleagues.
And, in the belief that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, I've nicked the RP's idea to share a tweet I received from a character hiding behind the name of Stewards Room on Saturday afternoon.
This self styled campaigner against corruption in racing reached out to young William Twiston-Davies with a plaintive plea after The New One had bolted up under his brother Sam.
"g cunningham is 1 boring c**** who aint no good for racing utter dog***t You agree Willy yes" was the gist of his argument.
Willy seems to have kept his own counsel.
And so will I. It's probably for the best.
Jumping juggernauts ready to roll again as Festival approaches
A simple question to finish things off in part 3 of the Festival File:
How many winners will the big three trainers notch at the 2013 Festival?
Messrs Henderson, Mullins and Nicholls captured a round dozen between them last year (with Henderson responsible for seven on his own) and engaging tweeter @theProphetRooster reports that they have won no fewer than 21 of the 41 Graded races run at the Festival in the last three years.
A quick glance down the current ante-post lists show that they are responsible for 10 Festival favourites and any number of other major fancies this time around.
In short, it will be very surprising if the jumping juggernauts don't hit double figures again.