A BULLISH Nigel Twiston-Davies says he’s not scared of one horse after confirming that stable star The New One is on course for a third crack at Cheltenham’s Champion Hurdle.
Well-beaten by Faugheen, the reigning champion, at Kempton on Boxing Day, the trainer has earmarked possible prep races at either Wincanton or Sandown before Cheltenham’s ultimate test.
“He’s come out of the race 100 per cent fine,” said Twiston-Davies, who has discounted the counsel of those who believe The New One should be stepped up in trip because of the dominance of Ireland’s hurdlers from the all-conquering yard of Willie Mullins.
“He’d had five weeks off with a foot problem, so I’m expecting him to come on a heck of a lot for it.I think he ran as well as could have been expected, actually, in the circumstances.
“He’ll definitely have another race before Cheltenham. The Haydock one we used last season might come too soon.
“There are options at Wincanton (Kingwell) and Sandown (Contenders Hurdle), though, it will probably be one of those.
“I’ve not even considered the World Hurdle, he’s still the best British hurdler over two miles and you can’t run away from one horse.”
Meanwhile, Barry Murphy admits he has “big boots to fill” after making a flying start to his training career at Limerick over the Festive period.
A son of North Yorkshire’s multiple Grade One and Cheltenham Festival-winning trainer Ferdy Murphy, he struck gold with just his third runner as Pairofbrowneyes ran out a decisive winner of the valuable Tim Duggan Memorial Handicap Chase.
Murphy said: “It was nice to get one on the board so early, especially in a fairly big race.
“We’ll give him an entry in the Leopardstown Chase on January 17 and see where we are nearer the time, but he’s a progressive horse and he’ll be fairly good if we just mind him to a certain extent for the rest of this season.”
Murphy has a string of nearly 30 horses in work at his County Wexford base, but a number of those are likely to be sold on in time.
“We’ve got 28 horses riding out at the moment,” he added. “We’ve a lot of nice, young horses from France that we’ll run in bumper and point-to-points and then they’ll be sold. That’s just the way it is and what you have to do to survive.
“It’s worked out well for us in the past with the likes of Al Ferof and Cheltenian and hopefully there’s a few nice ones there.”
Connections of Coneygree are confident he will return next season as good as ever after the injured Cheltenham Gold Cup hero was ruled out for the rest of the season.
The Mark Bradstock-trained eight-year-old was a brilliant winner on his seasonal reappearance at Sandown, but missed the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury in November and has since been ruled out for the remainder of the campaign due to hock issues.
After spending time at the Newmarket Equine Hospital, Coneygree is continuing to recover at Bradstock’s Wantage yard.
Sara Bradstock, the trainer’s wife and assistant, said: “He’s back home and everything is good. We’ll probably let him out for some spring grass, give him the summer off and bring him back early to make sure he is at his best for the start of next season.
“We know he’s brilliant, but we also know he’s fragile. That was one of the mini-reasons we decided to go for the Gold Cup last season.
“If you watch the replay of the Gold Cup, you can see him powering up the Cheltenham hill being powered by his back legs, a bit like a grasshopper.
“The faster they go, the more prone they are to these little things, but he’ll definitely be back. It’s been a frustrating Christmas as I haven’t seen a race I don’t think he could have won. The horse himself is a little bit cross about it all – he’s not too keen on this not-galloping malarkey!”
Malton trainer Richard Fahey has three chances at Lingfield today to make racing history.
Stuck on the 235-winner mark after drawing a blank at Wolverhampton last night, he needs one more winner to break the retired Richard Hannon Snr’s record for most victories in a calendar year.
The Fahey stable has been in a rich vein of form and will be hoping that this run of success is precursor to more victories at Grade One level.
Tomkevi was a welcome winner at Haydock yesterday for Brandsby trainer Rebecca Menzies whose yard has been badly hit in the floods – the horse won the fixed brush hurdle race under Tony Kelly.
Arise Sir AP: See page 6.