The New One can shoot for stars after Neptune glory – Twiston-Davies
It is often the case in sport that you learn more in defeat than victory and, after sprinting up the hill to win the Neptune Novice Hurdle on The New One, Sam Twiston-Davies might reflect that a narrow defeat here in January was a turning point in the gelding's career.
That day Twiston-Davies (20) rode the five-year-old for stamina but was outstayed. However, the jockey learned from that mistake. Here he rode him for speed and what a difference it made.
The New One showed a turn of foot which might yet serve him well in next year's Champion Hurdle.
He beat Rule The World and Pont Alexandre – the supposed good thing.
Having come into the Festival with some prominent members of his yard, including former Gold Cup winner Imperial Commander, under the weather, it was the trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies who appeared to be suffering yesterday.
"I didn't see the race I'm afraid – I got gut ache and was in the loo. I only saw the last hurdle."
The handler's mid-winter assertion that this was the best horse he has ever trained certainly looks less fanciful now.
"When he gets carried away making statements like that," joked his son and jockey, "you just think 'calm down' but I think he's right this time. We were a bit worried about the form of the horses but that was eased a bit when Ackertak finished second at 66/1 on Tuesday and he's only 10 doors down from this horse."
It was the jockey's second Festival winner but first as a professional. "It's days like this why we get up at 6.0 in the rain and frost," he added.
The last time Jim Culloty was in the winner's enclosure at Cheltenham was when he and Best Mate returned to a raucous hero's welcome following their third Gold Cup victory in 2004.
He retired soon afterwards to start training and his handling of Lord Windermere, winner of the RSA Chase, has been exemplary.
The step up to three miles showed Lord Windermere in his true light as he beat Lyreen Legend a length and three quarters for Davy Russell having travelled well throughout the race.
"It's a very different sensation training one instead of riding," said Culloty. "When I was riding I was nervous for half an hour before I got on, training I've been nervous about this for six months.
"It's very different when you feed them each morning. I've 13 stables in a line and he's the 11th one and as you feed the others it's always him you look out for because he's the best I have. My training career got off to a slow start and Dr Lambe has been a loyal and supportive owner. He was mad about a Cheltenham winner and we've got him one."
When asked if he would be back for next year's Gold Cup, Culloty replied: "We'll celebrate tonight and think about the future tomorrow."
Gordon Elliott also contributed to what is becoming a bumper Festival for the Irish, who ended the day with seven winners on the board, two more than last year's total of five and on course to break the record 13 of two years ago.
Elliott's Flaxen Flare was bought off the Flat for 105,000 guineas at the Tattersalls Horses-in-Training Sale in the autumn and the application of blinkers for the first time after two defeats was a masterstroke by the trainer, who famously won a Grand National with Silver Birch before he even trained a winner at home.
Elliott said: "We bought him as a dual horse who could run on the Flat and over jumps for a bit of craic. If he never wins again it doesn't matter – it's job done. Every race at the Festival is hard to win so we'll have a drink tonight." (© Daily Telegraph, London)