SAM Twiston-Davies has hailed the incredible work of the Injured Jockeys Fund (IJF) after being given the all-clear to ride The New One in today’s Unibet International Hurdle at Cheltenham.
The jump jockey admitted he was losing the race against time to make his comeback on one of his favourite horses after breaking his elbow in a fall from Double Ross at Sandown on November 12.
However, the tide turned in the past week thanks to the tireless work behind the scenes at the IJF’s Oaksey House rehab centre in Lambourn, enabling him to ride out the last couple of days before getting the medical go-ahead yesterday lunchtime to partner the top class hurdler who is seeking a fourth win in this prestigious Grade Two race.
“In all honesty I can’t really describe how I feel. I rode out this morning and felt really good, but I went to Oaksey House a little bit nervous,” said Twiston-Davies.
“I wanted to get Dr (Jerry) Hill (British Horseracing Authority chief medical adviser) to look at the case and he was happy for me to ride.
“Emma Edwards (physiotherapist) has worked tirelessly with me and without her I wouldn’t be in the position I’m in now. I owe a lot to her.
“Rob Treviss (fitness coach) has worked me hard in the gym as well.
“I was always trying to comeback for this, it looked like it wasn’t going to happen, but in the last week Emma has worked really hard with me and luckily dreams come true.”
Like Jack Berry House in Malton, the facilities at Oaksey House now mean riders have access to the very best medical support when they suffer a fall, hence the importance of the Injured Jockeys Fund’s Christmas appeal and last night’s competition between Flat and National Hunt riders at the Horse of the Year Show at Olympia.
Twiston-Davies has partnered The New One to two of his three wins in this race, in 2013 and 2014. Champion jockey Richard Johnson was in the saddle when successful 12 months ago and was due to keep the ride.
“It’s a dream to be riding The New One. It’s his fourth International,” added Twiston-Davies, one of racing’s most likable characters. “He’s a great ride. He’s got the heart of a lion and he tries tremendously hard. He’s got an excellent record in the race. You can’t set it up. It’s just a dream.”
The New One, unlucky not to have won a Champion Hurdle, is trained by the jockey’s irrepressible father Nigel who is relishing the battle with the horse’s old adversary My Tent Or Yours.
“It has been his race for three of the last four years. We gave the weight away last year and hopefully we can do it again,” said Twiston-Davies senior.
“My Tent Or Yours has not run this season so maybe he won’t be quite as sharp. We have got a race-fitness advantage as we have already had two runs this season.
“It was brilliant performance last time out. He was only beaten five lengths giving tonnes of weight away so it was a superb run. He seems as good as ever and is still high up there in the ratings.”
It’s a big day for the Twiston-Davies yard – there are high hopes that Splash Of Ginge can achieve a notable double in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup.
Owner John Neild and the rest of the self-proclaimed ‘Ginge Army’ were dancing in the rain at Cheltenham last month after the nine-year-old ploughed through the mud to spring a 25-1 surprise in the BetVictor Gold Cup.
Top-class performer Exotic Dancer was the last horse to win both major prizes in the same season 11 years ago, and Neild believes his pride and joy can repeat the feat under Tom Bellamy who keeps the ride.
He said: “We’re always optimistic, but if the ground is soft or worse I really think he’s got a great chance. They’ve had snow on the track and there’s more frost coming, so you’d think it won’t be any better than soft.”
While his focus is very much on today’s race, proud Liverpudlian Neild already has one eye on a potential tilt at the Grand National in April.
Born just around the corner from Aintree, Neild used to play football between the famous fences as a child and admits it would be beyond his wildest dreams to have a runner in the race.
He revealed: “In a drunken state I had £1,000 on at 1000-1 for him to win the National, so it would be incredible to get him there.”