- Cheltenham Festival, Day Two
The New One bursts Pont Alexandre bubble
The New One provided local trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies with a Festival winner when storming away to land the Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle, bursting the bubble of Pont Alexandre in the process.
Pont Alexandre came into the race with a huge reputation, with trainer Willie Mullins - who had four winners to his name already - feeling he was his best chance of the week. Ruby Walsh attempted to make all and led turning in, but he had no answer as The New One swept past and ultimately faded into third.
For Twiston-Davies and his winning-rider son Sam, the win came as a huge relief as they were forced to withdraw Imperial Commander from the Gold Cup on account of a bug that swept through the yard.
There were concerns that the illness would affect The New One, but the fears proved unfounded as his charge, a 7/2 shot, produced a brilliant display.
The New One lost his unbeaten record over hurdles when collared late on by At Fishers Cross in a trial at Cheltenham earlier in the year, after which Sam Twiston-Davies felt he erred in the way he rode the horse.
On this occasion, Twiston-Davies held on to his charge for longer and it paid off at the finish.
But jumping three from home, The New One was short of room and was shuffled back towards the rear of the field. It looked worrying for his supporters heading to two out, but it ultimately paid off as it allowed Twiston-Davies to delay his challenge.
He brought his charge to the outside turning for home before kicking him in the belly. Once asked for his effort, The New One put his head down and powered to the front. He swept past Rule The World and a tiring Pont Alexandra and fairly flew up the hill in the style of a high-class performer.
Back In Focus continued the sizzling form of the Willie Mullins yard when powering up the hill to land the National Hunt Chase.
At four miles, it is the longest race at the Cheltenham Festival and Back In Focus needed every yard of it to justify 9/4 favouritism. Patrick Mullins, son of the trainer, had his charge in front rank from the outset. A bad mistake six from home checked his momentum and he looked booked for third at best when turning for home.
But Rival D'Estruval came down when challenging, which left long-time leader Tofino Bay clear. Nina Carberry looked booked for victory when jumping the final fence six lengths clear, but Tofino Bay began to idle on the long run to the line and Back In Focus swept past for victory.
Lord Windermere ran out a fortuitous winner of the RSA Chase, as Boston Bob came down at the last with the race at his mercy.
Paul Townend, taking the ride as Ruby Walsh deserted Boston Bob in favour of favourite Unioniste who disappointed, brought his mount from in to out and back in again after finding traffic trouble. He swept to the front turning in and jumped the second last like a stag.
He was two lengths clear and in command, but horse and jockey had a difference of opinion. Townend went long, but Boston Bob put in an extra stride and he hit top of the fence and failed to get his landing gear out. This left Lyreen Legend in front, but Lord Windermere swept past and ran out a ready winner for rider Davy Russell and trainer Jim Culloty of Best Mate fame.
Mullins and owner Graham Wylie bookended the card, as Ruby Walsh brought Briar Hill with a storming late run to land the closing bumper - denying AP McCoy, riding Regal Encore, for the second time at the meeting.