NT-D savouring special One
Nigel Twiston-Davies' great young hope The New One spearheads a Cheltenham team which the trainer is treating with his usual optimism.
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A dozen key members of the squad cantered up the Naunton gallops at Twiston-Davies' Festival press day on Monday and at 4/1 with Sky Bet, The New One is by some way his shortest-priced runner as he heads for the Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle.
"I think it's as strong as we've had for a bit," he said. "We've got the (Imperial) Commander coming back and we've got some very, very nice novices.
"We haven't got the money to go out and buy expensive horses and it's nice we've got some to do the job. It's hard work, but more satisfying."
The New One was sixth in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper but strode through his first three hurdles in exciting fashion. He met with defeat for the first time this season when ridden positively by the trainer's son Sam on Festival Trials Day, but eventually gave best to At Fishers Cross.
"It won't be such desperate ground this time," Twiston-Davies said. "He's obviously got a huge burst of speed, and in hindsight probably we used it up a bit soon.
"We will probably take it up at the last, but there's no point sitting there at the last, and then making a mistake at it.
"The ground cannot be as horrible as it was and I hope he's got a good chance. He's the shortest priced of mine, anyway."
While many of his runners have been seen at the meeting before, two young novice hurdlers represent other major chances for Grange Hill Farm.
African Gold heads for the Albert Bartlett on a five-timer, and the same can be applied for Master Of The Sea in the Coral Cup.
Twiston-Davies said: "African Gold has done everything we have wanted - he has been absolutely superb this season and I hope in years to come he'll be an Imperial Commander-type horse for us.
"Master Of The Sea has been an absolute revelation, we haven't got to the bottom of him yet, and we're very excited about the Coral Cup."
Twiston-Davies is waiting to see whether Tour Des Champs will get in the JLT Specialty Handicap Chase when the weights are announced later this week before deciding between that and the RSA, while Imperial Leader is set to run at Sandown next week before a potentially quick turnaround in one of the handicap hurdles.
Another set to be back out quickly is Same Difference, who was sixth in last weekend's Racing Plus Chase at Kempton.
"I thought he ran a good race. He's in the four-miler and we'll look at that," the trainer said.
The Cockney Mackem has recovered from a gruesome-sounding colon operation and is set for the Pulteney Land Investments Novices' Handicap Chase while According To Trev is in good shape as one of a handful of Pertemps Final entries.
Pure Science goes for the Champion Bumper and Pigeon Island, one of the three most recent Festival heroes when the yard last struck gold in 2010, will be back for another shot at the Grand Annual.
One horse not likely to form part of the team is former Group-class Flat performer Ransom Note, who Twiston-Davies will not be declaring for either the Supreme or the Champion Hurdle.