Here at Kempton, the three-year-old hurdler Upgrade, nine-length winner of the opener, confirmed that all was indeed well in deepest Gloucestershire. Earth Summit carried on the good work in the Welsh National at Chepstow and less than half an hour after that Twiston-Davies was welcoming back Kerawi as winner of the Sunbury feature, the Christmas Hurdle.
The trainer's comments after Upgrade delivered in some style in the Pertemps Caledonian Hurdle were redoubled in spades as the day progressed. Upgrade, now 25-1 for the Triumph Hurdle with William Hill, had unaccountably flopped on his debut, during the lean spell, and Twiston-Davies said: "He's always worked brilliantly at home and I can't explain why he didn't do this first time. We've done all the usual tests on the horses but nothing in particular showed up, and we haven't been doing anything different. There's just been something floating about."
After the silencing of some of the big guns in the King George VI Chase two days ago the bulletins issued in defeat resembled updates from the school sanitorium. "Whoever eventually discovers why horses don't always do what we think they will will be very rich," added Twiston-Davies. "I just hope it's me."
Kerawi, a smart novice last season and the medium of an almighty gamble from 20-1 in the morning down to 4-1, bounced back to his best form to beat the Champion Hurdle second favourite Shadow Leader three-quarters of a length in the Christmas Hurdle under an intelligent ride from the front by Carl Llewellyn. The slowish pace had Shadow Leader wasting energy as, his head set in telltale sideways mode, he attempted to tug Norman Williamson's arms from their sockets.
But it was a satisfactory seasonal debut for the near-black six-year- old, who went into a few Champion Hurdle notebooks after his runaway Supreme Novices' victory in March. His trainer Charlie Egerton concurred. "Fitness wasn't a problem, no excuses on that count," he said. "But he'll be much better off a faster pace, and on faster ground. A lot of novices don't make that step up to the higher grade as seniors, but I think this one has."
Twiston-Davies acknowledged that he might now have to think about the Champion Hurdle for Kerawi - William Hill and Ladbrokes go 25-1 - who revels in soft ground, but more immediately the thought of Kerawi's 10st 3lb (which includes a 4lb penalty for yesterday's success) in the Tote Gold Trophy Handicap Hurdle at Newbury in February had him rubbing his hands in glee. Shadow Leader, beaten at level weights yesterday, has to concede 12lb to Kerawi at Newbury.
Kerawi and Upgrade rounded off the merriest of Christmases for their owners Matt Archer and Jean Broadhurst, whose racing silks are the claret and blue of their other passion, Aston Villa.
Earth Summit, another confirmed mudlark, is on course for the Grand National after his 25-1 victory in the Welsh version. The blinkered nine-year-old, running for only the third time since breaking down at Haydock nearly two years ago, kept going as Indian Tracker, who had shared the work up front, hit the wall early in the straight.
Martin Pipe has farmed the Chepstow marathon in recent years, winning five of the previous seven runnings and Dom Samourai did best of his five candidates this time, coming with a sustained run over the final three fences. But gallant Earth Summit, ridden by Tom Jenks, had done enough to hold on by two lengths.
Twiston-Davies' treble - which paid 3,379-1 - brought joy to one Coral punter, who scooped pounds 500,000. And those who followed Tony McCoy would have gone home cheerful too after the champion jump jockey's hat-trick in the first three at Chepstow. His haul included the day's other Grade One contest, the Finale Junior Hurdle, on Pipe's Rainwatch, who made it two out of two over timber. Rainwatch is now 10-1 favourite for the Triumph Hurdle with Coral.
Adrian Maguire, who returned to action a week ago after nearly a month off with a fractured right arm, left Kempton in an ambulance after aggravating the injury in a fall from Hurricane Rock.Reuse content