THE New One effectively confirmed his status as Britain’s top hurdler after winning the Doom Bar Aintree Hurdle by a nostril in a three-way photo finish.
However, jockey Sam Twiston-Davies was made to pull out all the stops to atone for the horse’s third-place finish in last month’s Stan James Champion Hurdle when he was badly hampered by Our Conor’s fatal fall.
Despite being ridden conservatively in this two-and-a-half mile test, one of the opening-day highlights of the Grand National meeting, he only just held on from Rock On Ruby and Diakali in a frantic finish.
“He’s very good but he just lacked a bit of sparkle (yesterday) as he’s not really gone away from them after the line,” said the 21-year-old jockey, who is enjoying a career-best season ahead of tomorrow’s National ride on Tidal Bay.
“He was hit and miss, jumping wise. I didn’t quite get into the same rhythm as I did in the Champion Hurdle. He probably had a hard enough race at Cheltenham which took off some sparkle, but you can’t underestimate how good a performance that was.
“Everyone seems to judge your season on the way Cheltenham goes. If it doesn’t go right, it’s hard. But then there’s only one Aintree Hurdle every year, too, it’s a brilliant race.”
As for the jockey’s father Nigel who trains The New One, the relief across his brow was plain to see as he greeted his son.
“He’s the best horse we’ve ever had. Everyone looks for a horse like this and we’ve got one,” he said. “We wanted him to be the best ever and to win four Champion Hurdles, and he didn’t win the first. Maybe we’re just too greedy and should have been delighted with third.
“He didn’t get the chance to prove he was unlucky – apparently he made up eight lengths on the second horse, and how many lengths did he lose? Everything is laid out for next season’s Champion Hurdle. That’s it for the season.”
The revelation was Rock On Ruby, who returned to hurdles following an unconvincing flirtation with fences. His trainer Harry Fry described the horse as “one in a million” and said he will stick to smaller obstacles.
The dream, said Fry, is regaining the Champion Hurdle that Rock On Ruby won in 2011. On this evidence, it is a realistic proposition.