The New One and Kings Palace Sparkle At Cheltenham International Meeting

Nigel Twiston-Davies has often been a name synonymous with Cheltenham and the Naunton handler yet again sparkled at the Gloucestershire venue last weekend as he bagged a big race double on the second day of the International meeting with The New One, in particular, enhancing his claims a genuine contender for the 2014 Champion Hurdle.

Prior to The New One’s demolition of Zarkandar, the Twiston-Davies team were celebrating after Nigel’s son, Sam, had piloted Double Ross to a battling two-length victory over Cantlow in the December Gold Cup to send the flourishing jockey into the International Hurdle attempting to land a double on the card whilst cementing The New One’s place at the head of the Champion Hurdle market.

Stalking Zarkandar for most of the contest, Twiston-Davies was momentarily forced to get busy on the 2/5 favourite heading towards the last but last season’s Neptune Novices’ Hurdle winner duly quickened up showing a tremendous turn of foot to storm clear of the former Triumph Hurdle winner to win by six lengths. As a result, his odds to win the Champion Hurdle were cut in to 7/2, becoming the outright ante-post favourite for the feature race on the opening day of the four-day meeting.

Whilst The New One was the highlight of two days of racing at Prestbury Park’s two day meeting, there was an impressive performance from David Pipe’s Kings Palace earlier on Saturday’s card, with the five-year-old propelling clear up the hill to land the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle trial and the Pond House inmate was immediately slashed to the 5/1 favourite for the three-mile Grade One prize of the same name in March.

Day one of the International meeting also provided some vital Cheltenham Festival clues and it all kicked off with a mouth-watering clash between top notch hurdler Oscar Whisky and the progressive Paul Nicholls-trained Wonderful Charm, but it was the former who finally highlighted his potential over the larger obstacles and is now a 7/1 chance for the Jewson Novices’ Chase.

After a farcical contest last month where Oscar Whisky was beaten by Taquin Du Seuil following an almost walking paced gallop, Barry Geraghty opted to make the running on the Nicky Henderson runner and he duly outclassed Wonderful Charm in the closing stages and the Seven Barrows team will now aim to use that victory as a catalyst for more success for the eight-year-old over fences.

Elsewhere, Tom Scudamore produced a textbook ride on board former Welsh National winner Monbeg Dude as he pounced on the eye-catching effort to win the 3m 1 1/2f handicap chase ahead of  Theatre Guide, for which he was cut from as big as 40/1 in to as short as 20/1 in the Grand National betting.

Paul Nicholls tasted success as Sire Collonges showed his versatility and landed the Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Chase on Friday. The race may have not had the strength in depth that it usually has with the likes of Balthazar King and Uncle Junior opting to bypass the contest but Sire Collonges, who is still a relative novice over the idiosyncratic challenge, showed a real relish for the task put in front of him and he is now available around an 8/1 shot for the Cross Country at the Festival, which has been moved to the Wednesday for 2014.

Willie Mullins: Six Of The Best For the National Hunt Season

Champion Irish trainer, Willie Mullins, is beginning to move through the gears as the National Hunt season gathers more momentum. The hugely successful trainer, who saddled four winners at last year’s Cheltenham Festival will hoping to better that tally in 2012 and will be reliant that at least three of those winners from last year will be capable of repeating the feat come March. Here are six of his best stable prospects that will be campaigned with tilts at the Festival in mind.

Hurricane Fly

There is no doubt that the greatest two mile hurdler around right now will go off as the favourite to win the Champion Hurdle for a second successive year. As we all know, he saw off the challenge of three major contenders when winning the 2011 Champion Hurdle and did so with alarming ease. He is probably one of the bankers of the Festival who can be backed currently at 7/4 -  a price that will only contract if he picks up where he left off last season when he makes his seasonal reappearance in a couple of weeks time.

Quevega

What more can we say about this outstanding mare who has won the David Nicholson Mares Hurdle at the Festival for the last three years running. Mullins has confirmed that the same policy of not running her until the Festival will be maintained this year, which is a long wait for fans to see her but understandable as it has worked for the past two seasons. She is a best price of 6/4 for race and is sure to be shorter come the Festival.

Sir Des Champs

Unbeaten over hurdles, Sir Des Champs culminated his excellent campaign last season by winning the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockey Hurdle at the Festival, This year the hugely talented 5 year old will be aimed at the Novice Chases with a probable tilt at the Arkle Chase. Prices will be out for him after he has made his debut, probably in the Beginners Chase at Punchestown on 19th November.

Uncle Junior

An out and out stayer, Uncle Junior surprised many last week when winning the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase at Cheltenham last week, where he beat the very experienced Garde Champetre by 2½ lengths. Mullins had always believed that the ten year old would acquit himself well in races such as this, no matter what the going and his season’s target will be a repeat of the Open meeting course and distance success in the Cross Country Chase at the Festival.

Samain

Unbeaten in three ‘Bumpers’ last season, this German bred 5 year old will next be seen novice hurdling although Mullins has not as yet decided when this will be. By all accounts he is impressing everyone at home, he has great speed and his rate of improvement last season strongly suggest that the stable could have a real star in the making. Even without a hurdle win, Samain is a 20/1 shot for the Supreme Novice Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.

Boston Bob

Having won two from three in decent Bumpers last season, and who has a win in a Point to Point to his name, this six year old could be one of the more versatile horses in the Mullins stable; particularly now after he dotted up in a maiden hurdle at Navan this week. Mullins intends to keep him over the smaller obstacles this season but he expects him to run a big race in the Grade One Royal Bond Hurdle at Fairyhouse in early December. A decision will be taken after that race as to what he targets for Cheltenham.

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