Cheltenham Festival: The New One wins Novices' Hurdle as Rich Ricci misses out with Pont Alexandre finishing third

The Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained five-year-old benefited from a fine ride from the Naunton handler's son, Sam

Trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies banished fraught memories of a difficult few weeks as The New One claimed the Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.

The Naunton team have had a bad preparation for this year's showpiece meeting following the withdrawal of Gold Cup candidate Imperial Commander due to a lung infection.

Twiston-Davies was also forced to scratch three other Festival hopefuls due to an outbreak of a bug as his yard.

The New One, however, could not have looked in ruder health as he clinically despatched of a strong field by upwards of four lengths.

The five-year-old (7-2) benefited from a fine ride from the trainer's son, Sam, to defeat Irish raider Rule The World in some style.

Pont Alexandre, the 6-4 favourite from Willie Mullins' stable and owned by Rich Ricci, was always to the fore under Ruby Walsh but finished third.

In a race devoid of any serious pace, Pont Alexandre and Ubak jousted for the lead up until the penultimate flight, when the latter was worried out of it.

Mullins' inmate remained in a strong position, with Taquin Du Seuil and Rule The World firmly in contention.

Sam Twiston-Davies had all bases covered, though, and scampered along the outside of the field as The New One secured his third victory from four starts this season.

The heavily-backed Pont Alexandre finished another four and a half lengths adrift of the accomplished scorer.

The winning rider said: "This is him in his full glory.

"He jumped brilliant and travelled away great.

"You won't get a much better feeling than that.

"It was absolute class. I had a bit of trouble in running coming down the hill.

"I'd like to think he'd be really, really good.

"This race looked very competitive and considering we got a few knocks down the hill he has really picked up."

Twiston-Davies snr said: "It's wonderful and when it's all in the family it makes it even better.

"He's real class horse. What beat him last time was the heavy ground.

"It was purely the ground that beat him last time.

"They went no gallop today, and this lad has enormous class.

"His turn of foot is extraordinary.

"Rock On Ruby went from this race to the Champion Hurdle and it's definitely possible he's a Champion Hurdle horse.

"We'll certainly run again this season - he's the most relaxed horse - and Aintree is a definite possibility."

A slightly deflated Mouse Morris, who was saddling his second runner-up of the first two days, said of Rule The World: "He ran a cracker, but he was beaten by a better horse on the day and there are no excuses.

"You might see him in Punchestown, but he is a big frame of a horse who will be better next year."

Mullins said of Pont Alexandre, whose two wins in Ireland had come on heavy ground: "Ruby said he wasn't travelling from a long way out - maybe soft ground is the key.

"He'll probably go to Punchestown.

"It's just the ground, but I am just disappointed."

PA

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