Un De Sceaux was hailed by his connections as "an iron horse" after slogging to victory in Ascot's Clarence House Chase, becoming the first to win the race three times. The same label could also be applied with at least as much justice to The New One, who achieved a fourth consecutive win in the day's other major race, Haydock's Champion Hurdle Trial.
Known as a front-runner, Un de Sceaux was in the unusual position of being 10 lengths off the pace on Saturday, thanks to a swashbuckling speed set by the 16-1 shot Speredek. A progressive handicapper who had won five of his last six, Speredek stayed so far in front for so long that his Betfair odds dropped to 9-2 before a couple of tired-looking jumps up the side of the course.
Those allowed his rivals to close up behind him, none moving with more obvious purpose than Un de Sceaux, who led over the second-last. That was the point at which victory became almost certain, as the novice Brain Power stepped into the fence and fell. Speredek was able to hold on to second place, finishing a respectful seven lengths behind the winner.
"To do that three years running on two different tracks on what looked very tacky ground is great," said the winning trainer, Willie Mullins, alluding to the Clarence House being staged at Cheltenham last year. "It looks like he's racing a lot more relaxed nowadays, which means we can ride him differently.
"We thought there might be a couple of front-runners today, so Paul [Townend] said he was happy enough to let them go if they wanted to, and sure enough there was a front-runner in there and it suited us. He's an iron horse and takes his training very seriously every morning."
Townend also applied the "iron horse" tag to Un de Sceaux, adding: "He gallops through that ground better than any horse I've ever ridden."
Brain Power reportedly made a noise before he came down and may now be considered for a wind operation. His claims for the Arkle Trophy now have an unpromising look, his jumping having let him down twice in a row, and he was pushed out to 16-1 from 12-1 for the Cheltenham Festival race.
The New One briefly looked in trouble at Haydock when, after leading from the outset, he was passed on the run-in by the strong-travelling Ch'Tibello. But the 10-year-old, now a veteran of 36 races, put his head down and battled dourly, hitting the line with far more momentum than his rival and scoring by half a length.
Sam Twiston-Davies, enjoying his 18th success aboard The New One, said he would have to consider naming his house after the horse, his share of the prize money having covered the mortgage. Sam's father Nigel, who trains the winner, rejoiced in seeing off a significant rival: "They try and play cat and mouse - 'Oh, we'll stalk him, we'll overtake him' - no, they can't. He's much too tough."
For all his many wins, The New One has been a source of discord between the two Twiston-Davieses over the years, as to his appropriate Festival target.
While Sam has favoured a tilt at the three-mile Stayers Hurdle, Nigel has always ended up running him in the Champion Hurdle, in which his pace has been repeatedly found wanting.
This time, both are pointing towards the longer race and Nigel conceded he would have gone that way last year, had the Champion not begun to look more like the softer option. Asked whether The New One would see out the extra distance in March, the trainer said: "We're not going to try beforehand, we'll just go there and see. If he does stay, he'll be able to sit there and he's got that turn of foot that probably none of the stayers have got." Observer
Sunday Indo Sport