Nigel Twiston-Davies, with 17 winners at The Festival to his name, is particularly looking forward to the first day of the four-day meeting, Champion Day, Tuesday, March 14, when he has a strong hand.
He outlined his plans for The Festival 2017 at a media stable visit to his thriving stables near Naunton in Gloucestershire this week.
The trainer said: “We have just about totally decided to go for the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle (the opening race at 1.30pm) with Ballyandy. He cantered to the last in the Betfair Hurdle and quickened away nicely.”
“We have always thought an awful lot of him and I cannot understand why he didn’t do better in his first three races over hurdles, but he managed to handicap himself nicely.”
“He is trying to go on to better things now. We checked everything including his wind – nothing was amiss.”
“Maybe, with time, he has got better. He has got plenty of speed – he won at The Festival last year (Weatherbys Champion Bumper), again over two miles but no hurdles. I am really looking forward to that and hopefully we will be able to take our revenge on Moon Racer.”
Flying Angel is entered in both the Racing Post Arkle Novices’ Chase and the JLT Novices’ Chase.
Twiston-Davies commented: “Flying Angel is one of the puzzles of the whole thing. He was very good at Warwick in the Kingmaker so what do we do? Should we take on the supposedly unbeatable Altior or do we go for what could be an easier task in the JLT?”
“But you should not be frightened of one horse – we don’t know and will probably be discussing it right up to the end.”
The New One has long been a star at Grange Hill Farm and is set to run in the Stan James Champion Hurdle for the fourth time.
The nine-year-old did best in the two-mile hurdling championship when third in 2014 after being badly hampered early in the race. He is already a winner at The Festival, having won the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle in 2013.
The trainer declared: “We have decided that The New One goes for the Champion Hurdle – we are all agreed on that. The race is not as hot it has been in the past – no Faugheen this year and if you look at the ratings – the handicapper as he tells us is always right – The New One should be right there at the finish.”
“The New One is one of the top-rated – there is only a pound between him and Yanworth, who are the two top-rated horses in the race.”
“Cheltenham brings the best out of him – he was only beaten eight lengths last year and the different tactics we are employing now should turn that around. I am very excited by him and looking forward to the day.”
“This will be his fourth Champion Hurdle and he was very unlucky in his first one – hopefully this is the year that everything will fall right for him.”
“He has had soundness issues in the past but we are happier than we have been for a long time. Since October, touch wood, he has not had an unsound step.”
“He did not seem to be showing his age when he won the International Hurdle at Cheltenham – he seemed to sparkle that day. He has never liked Haydock but managed to win there. Back at his favourite course, he will be flying up the hill.”
“We want to put right the unlucky bits we have had in the past – he was desperately unlucky in that first Champion Hurdle, being knocked back further than he was beaten.”
“It would be absolutely wonderful if he won – he has been so brilliant for us over the years.”
Calett Mad goes for the J T McNamara National Hunt Chase, also on the first day.
The trainer explained: “Calett Mad is a very nice horse. It was disappointing that he was beaten up at Wetherby but I think we can put that down to the soft ground.”
The 4/6 with Betway looks a good thing for Willie Mullins to be Festival top trainer.
Back next Thursday