Cheltenham specialist The New One is set for his 15th start at the Home of Jump Racing in the £325,000 G1 Sun Bets Stayers' Hurdle on St Patrick's Thursday, March 15. It will be his first attempt at three miles and seventh appearance at The Festival.
The New One and Nigel Twiston-Davies
Trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies spoke about The New One today at a Cheltenham Racecourse-organised media stable visit to his Gloucestershire stables ahead of The Festival, which happens over four days next month - Tuesday, March 13 to Friday, March 16 inclusive.
He said: "I expect The New One and Wholestone will dead-heat in the Sun Bet Stayers' Hurdle! No, I don't know as it is a whole new game for The New One, while Wholestone has done well all season.
"Wholestone likes Cheltenham - he got slightly outstayed in the very heavy ground last time, but the ground won't be like that at The Festival and I am sure he will get home.
"I am not confident about three miles for The New One at all, which is why we have hung on so long to try him over it.
"We will be riding The New One differently and so on - we won't be making all. He has won over two and a half miles quite a few times, but is he really staying on then? I don't know.
"Looking at the races he has run this season, The New One is probably better than he has ever been. I think his races have been incredible this season and the handicapper thinks so too as the horse is still very highly-rated.
"We had to have a go at the Champion Hurdle trials this season because they are so valuable and he has run well in all of them. He just has this huge earning capacity at two miles and he is likely to go back to that distance next season. That is where the money is and if he is earning £200,000 a year why do anything else?
"The New One has already won a championship race at The Festival as he took the Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle in 2013 (now the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle).
"He is the horse of a lifetime - it would be nice to win the Stayers' Hurdle as it was so sad when the first Champion Hurdle was there for the taking and he was knocked out of it.
"Sam (Twiston-Davies - son and jockey) has been keen to try The New One over three miles for a long time."
Reacting to the fact that this will be The New One's seventh run at The Festival, the trainer said: "That is quite a statistic and hopefully he will be running there next year too. The New One has been very kind to us. Wholestone is proven at the distance, while The New One isn't, so it is impossible to say which will do better on the day.
"The New One would have a good chance if he stays the trip. We're not going into the race confident about the trip, but if does stay - people are telling me that he will and that he'll improve for the trip - then he has a very good chance. He's won races having been held up so that isn't an issue."