The New One, part of a new wave of top-class young hurdlers threatening to swamp the reigning champion, Hurricane Fly, at the Cheltenham Festival next March, will have his credentials properly examined by a high-class yardstick, Zarkandar, in today’s International Hurdle.
Hurricane Fly may have won 17 Grade One races and two Champion Hurdles, but, now rising 10, he will have to make way for a younger generation one day and with Our Conor, My Tent Or Yours and Jezki others with serious designs on his crown, we might just be coming to the moment when this wonderful old boy is finally nudged aside.
Zarkandar, beaten about seven lengths by Hurricane Fly last March, then defeated The New One narrowly at Aintree and on that line of form Nigel Twiston-Davies’ five-year-old has a bit to find to reach the very top.
But he was still a novice then and there is every chance that he will bridge that gap with another summer on his back, not just with Zarkandar this afternoon, but also with Hurricane Fly at the Festival. Certainly, the manner in which he disposed of the 2012 champion Rock On Ruby on his seasonal return at Kempton in October, provided strong evidence that he is developing into the real deal.
You won’t get rich backing The New One (3.00 Cheltenham), but there is a decent profit to be made if you can find the winner of the Stewart Family Gold Cup, a race which features a rematch between Johns Spirit and Colour Squadron, first and second in the Paddy Power Gold Cup at the course last month.
There are two ways of looking at that close finish. Many believe Colour Squadron would have won had he not been hampered by the falling Easter Meteor at the second last. Others are convinced that Johns Spirit, left in front sooner than intended as the leader departed, simply idled up the hill when he thought the job was done.
Anyway Attaglance (2.25, Cheltenham), who finished with as much of a flourish as Colour Squadron to take fourth, may well beat them both this time. A winner at both the Cheltenham and Aintree Festivals last year off higher handicap marks than this over hurdles, this Yorkshire raider has been a slow learner over fences, but is getting the hang of things now and has a really good chance of another big payday.
More Of That (3.35 Cheltenham) is the least experienced of the talented quartet lining up for a fascinating Relkeel Hurdle and has more to do than when completing a hat-trick in a Haydock handicap last time, but watching him surge clear in the closing stages it wasn’t hard to imagine him doing likewise to the same effect in stronger company up the Cheltenham hill.
He may have too much at the finish for the smart Glens Melody, a mare Ruby Walsh is travelling over from Ireland to partner instead of staying at home to ride at Fairyhouse.
On a day when several old and recent rivalries will be renewed, the strongest sense of déjà vu will come when Le Bec, Shutthefrontdoor and Sam Winner, first, second and third in the Cotswolds last month after jumping the second-last in unison, meet again in the novice chase. It should again be close, but Shutthefrontdoor (12.40, Cheltenham) has a slight pull in the weights with Le Bec and that might make the difference.
Oscar Whisky and Wonderful Charm did their Festival prospects no harm when fighting out a tight finish at Cheltenham yesterday, the former prevailing by half a length. Both were given 10-1 quotes for the Jewson Chase.
Looking ahead to the Grand National, there were wins for Monbeg Dude, trained locally by Michael Scudamore, old Sunnyhillboy, beaten a nostril at Aintree in 2012, and Sire Collonges in the Cross-Country Chase. You can still back all three at 33-1.
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