Tommytucker masters Haydock rivals

Master Tommytucker and Sam Twiston-Davies proved a perfect match as they reunited for an impressive victory in the Back And Lay On Betfair Exchange Graduation Chase at Haydock.

Paul Nicholls’ talented but lightly-raced resurgent star has been let down by his jumping several times over fences.

But with Twiston-Davies back on board for the first time since they struck together when Master Tommytucker was making his racecourse debut in a novice hurdle at Exeter in 2018, there was barely a semblance of a mistake on the way to a fine front-running success for the 2-1 favourite.

The Nicholls camp may consider next month’s Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon for the nine-year-old, who won a match race over that course and distance just under two weeks ago.

For Twiston-Davies, though, this success by 15 lengths from another of his old favourites Good Boy Bobby is a case of job done – with thanks to helpful instructions from Master Tommytucker’s regular jockey Harry Cobden.

“He’s got a serious engine – he jumps from fence to fence and does it the hard way on the front,” he said.

“He does relax in front, but he puts other horses under pressure.

“We got into a good rhythm – and Harry Cobden had a really good chat with me (beforehand), and was incredibly helpful.

“He just said he likes to jump by himself, so just leave him to it – because pretty much, when you ask him, he tends to do his own thing.

“So he said, whatever you do, as hard as it can be, just sit and hold his hand all the way round.”

Reflecting on his first association with Master Tommytucker – who earned quotes of 25-1 and 50-1 for the Ryanair Chase and Gold Cup respectively with Betfair – Twiston-Davies added: “That was a long time ago, but it’s nice to get another go on him – and great that it’s gone to plan as well.

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“He rides very smart anyway.”

Charlie Longsdon was earlier delighted with his “dude of a mare” after Snow Leopardess displayed great tenacity to win the Betfair Supports Safer Gambling Week Handicap Chase.

Snow Leopardess, a Listed bumper and Grade Two hurdles winner in her youth, had two years off with injury after an Auteuil success in 2017 and produced a foal by Sir Percy during her sabbatical.

But she showed she has lost none of her appetite for battle on the track, overcoming a serious mistake at the end of the back straight under Brian Hughes to gradually haul in another grey, the front-running Commodore, and hit the front just before the line to win by half-a-length as a well-backed 9-2 joint-favourite.

Longsdon had decided, after two placed runs in useful novice company this season on her only two previous chase starts, that the eight-year-old’s rating of 126 was favourable – and she ensured he was vindicated.

“She has been a really good mare in her time,” said the Oxfordshire trainer.

“She won a Listed bumper at Gowran, and she won a Grade Two at Newbury.

“She got a leg when she won at Auteuil, was off for two years and had a foal and has a yearling on the ground by Sir Percy.

“She’s very, very fragile – and we can’t train her hard at home.”

Nonetheless, Longsdon was always optimistic of a good performance here.

“We knew potentially off 126, it was a nice mark – she was 135 in the past, before she got injured,” he added.

“She loves her jumping, and she stays – and she’s a dude of a mare.

“I think she’ll only improve – and Brian said if she hadn’t made a mistake at the last in the back straight both times, she’d have probably got there easier.

“But I’m delighted with her – a winner on a big day like this is always important for middle-sized yards.”

Longsdon is prepared to aim even higher with her this season too if Snow Leopardess comes out of her victory well.

He said: “We’ll see how she is in the morning – we won’t make any plans (yet), but I know the owner would love to go for the mares’ chase at Cheltenham.

“That is two and a half miles, so we’ll have to make big decisions coming up – otherwise, she’ll have a look at the four-miler (National Hunt Chase).

“The most important thing is keeping her sound now, and we’ll wrap her up in cotton wool.

Llandinabo Lad was a clear-cut winner of the Listed Betfair Weighed In Podcast Newton Novices’ Hurdle for trainer Tom Symonds and jockey Richard Johnson.

The five-year-old remains unbeaten in his two hurdles starts, having finished second in two bumpers last winter and then had a wind operation in July.

He convincingly followed up last month’s Bangor victory, mastering the front-running 7-4 favourite Do Your Job at the last and staying on well to take the opening race in the already rain-softened ground by four and a quarter lengths at 13-2.

Symonds said: “I’m delighted with him, because he was chucked in a bit at the deep end.

“He doesn’t need it soft, but he appears more effective on it.

“The plan was to see where we were today – I’m thinking something like a Tolworth over that stiff two miles at Sandown will suit him, and that’s what we will look at.”

As the rain began to take its toll, the Betfair Racing Only Bettor Handicap Hurdle turned into an eventful and gruelling test – albeit over just two miles three furlongs – and it was Robbie Power who kept out of trouble as Colin Tizzard’s 13-2 shot War Lord stayed on to be an appropriate winner, by a length and a quarter from Umbrigado.

Twiston-Davies back in form with Huntingdon treble

Sam Twiston-Davies emphatically ended a 36-ride losing streak with a Huntingdon treble, completed by Innisfree Lad in the MansionBet Faller Insurance Handicap Hurdle.

Having endured a day to forget at Wetherby 24 hours earlier, during which Ballyoptic pulled up in the feature Charlie Hall Chase, Twiston-Davies enjoyed the perfect confidence-booster at the Cambridgeshire track.

He said: “It’s a fairly crazy game. You go 36 rides without a winner, and you start to think ‘what you are doing – are you doing it wrong?’.

“It shows, though, on a day like today when you are on the best horses to have a plan and stick with it.”

Innisfree Lad had a slice of good fortune when scoring at the course 19 days ago, but the eight-year-old needed no such luck this time round – cruising home 18 lengths clear of Shantou Sunset, for Twiston-Davies and trainer Tom Symonds.

The winning jockey said of the 4-1 favourite: “I think the faster pace and softer ground suited him more than some of the others.

“I just tried to copy what Brian Hughes did last time, by keeping him wide. He jumped nicely.”

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A step up to Grade One company may be next for Orchestral Rain, who gave Twiston-Davies and trainer Dr Richard Newland the second of their two winners together – by 10 lengths as 2-1 favourite in the MansionBet Proud To Support British Racing Juvenile Hurdle.

Newland said: “He had to do a lot of the donkey work but he has done that well.

“I think he has progressed a lot from his last run, and I thought that at home because he is now getting the hang of it. He is probably better going the other way [left-handed].

“We will see what the handicapper does, but we might go for something like the Finale at Chepstow because I think the testing ground will suit him.”

Even-money favourite Chef De Troupe got the ball rolling for Twiston-Davies and Newland, following up his recent Perth success by two lengths in the Download The MansionBet App Claiming Hurdle.

Newland said: “He is a nice horse with lots of ability – but he got a fair hike for winning last time, so we thought this was a good option.

“He will go back into handicaps now, because no one came forward to claim him.”

Espoir De Romay formed the opening leg of an across-the-card double for trainer Kim Bailey – with an impressive two-and-a-half-length success on his debut over fences in the Watch And Bet At MansionBet Novices’ Chase.

Bailey, who was also on target with rising star Imperial Aura at Carlisle, said: “He is a nice horse and at the end of it he will have learnt a bit today. (Jockey) Ciaran (Gethings) was very impressed with him.

“He had a good season last year and he was one I was looking forward to, because he has been good over fences at home. He will be a better horse on softer ground.

“Like all these novices, I think he will need a little bit more experience before raising our sights.”

Perfect Myth (6-4) went one better than on her previous visit to the track when making her first start over an extended two miles three a winning one, by five lengths in the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle.

Bryony Frost, rider of the Neil-King trained winner, said : “The step up in trip has helped her today. I got caught in a bit of traffic last time, but she jumped beautifully today – and once I came round the final bend, she hit top gear.

“The wind op she had has helped make her believe in herself, and she is turning into a really nice mare now.”

Twiston-Davies treasures ‘amazing’ memories of The New One

Sam Twiston-Davies has paid tribute to former Cheltenham Festival winner The New One, who died on Saturday following a bout of colic.

The Grade One-winning rider partnered the King’s Theatre gelding, trained by his dad Nigel, in 35 of his 40 races – winning 18 times.

Stable lad Wayne Jones announced that the 12 year-old had died, having looked after him throughout his racing career and since his retirement in 2018 too.

Twiston-Davies said: “It is incredibly sad, because we had him his whole training career from a three-year-old until he was 10. We were incredibly lucky to have him, and we now just have to remember all the amazing days he has given us.

“Wayne Jones looked after him from day one until the very last day. Wayne now works for (trainer) Dr (Richard) Newland but he still rode him out every day and made sure he was well cared for.

“We will always have good memories and will treasure them. This horse did wonders for me and wonders for our yard. He kept us in the limelight when there wasn’t much else going on.

“It is just incredibly sad that I didn’t get to thank him as much as I would have liked to, or that he didn’t get to enjoy his retirement as much as you would have liked him to. He deserved to be treasured for years. ”

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The New One’s victory in the 2013 Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, along with his three International Hurdles victories at the track, were among his highest-profile wins.

Twiston-Davies added: “Winning the Neptune at the Cheltenham Festival was just incredible. I was relatively young, and I was just getting going.

“I’d lost my claim, and you need those kind of horses to propel you. He kind of split in the middle of two horses, and up the hill he came like the speed of light – which was incredibly exciting.

“It was always a pleasure to ride him around Cheltenham in those International wins. Some of the fights he had around Cheltenham on the Old Course were just phenomenal. ”

Away from Cheltenham, The New One – who earned more than £1million in prize money – enjoyed some of his finest moments at Haydock, where he won the Grade Two Champion Hurdle trial four times from 2015 and 2018.

Twiston-Davies added: “He was a warrior around Haydock. He never did it impressively, and he never won by far in those Champion Hurdle trials, but he would nearly leave you in tears afterwards – because he never gave up.

“You would think he was beaten three or four times in the straight, then somehow he managed to cross the line in front. ”

Sam Twiston-Davies who has paid tribute to former stable star The New One (David Davies/PA Images)
Sam Twiston-Davies has paid tribute to former stable star The New One (David Davies/PA Images)

Although The New One would go on to become a star on the track, during his early days at home he was not one to stand out from the crowd according to Twiston-Davies.

He said: “One thing that stands out in my mind is when he came in a bunch of three-year-olds. You wouldn’t have noticed him, and the only reason he did stand out was because of his superb work

“At the time we had two Flemensfirths, one that ended up being called Imperial Leader, and he was an absolute nightmare, and a Winged Love that was also really naughty.

“The whole time there was this placid King’s Theatre in the background that ended up being The New One, and one of the finest horses we have had in years. ”

For all the glory the pair achieved, one victory Twiston-Davies feels escaped them was the 2014 Champion Hurdle – a race in which they finished third behind Jezki, having been hampered at a crucial point by the fall of Our Conor.

Twiston-Davies added: “Without doubt, his first Champion Hurdle was the one that got away. It is the one time I left a racecourse in bits.

“For him to finish from the back of the last to the line like he did, and having to give up the four or five lengths he had to when the other horse fell in front him, you just thought ‘what might have been’.

“I couldn’t speak afterwards, and dad had to give me a hug, and I just went to the weighing room and sat in silence for a bit.  That is racing, though – and thankfully we have so many amazing days to remember him by.”