Quirky Twist turns on magic to land pronounced victory

Reformed character boosts Nicholls' Champion Chase hopes with win at Ascot

Of the many qualities desirable in a horse, the whimsical one possessed by Mr Ed would rank highly. Paul Nicholls has spent the last two years trying to get inside the apparently convoluted mind of high-class two-mile chaser Twist Magic and, although he appears to have succeeded, he is not sure exactly how. "They can't talk and tell you how they're feeling," he said after welcoming his charge into the winner's circle here, "so you have to try one thing, or another, and stick with what seems to work."

Twist Magic has always had a deal of talent – yesterday's Victor Chandler Chase was the fourth Grade One victory of his career – but his personality would not always let him express it. The key has been to take the pressure off at home by letting him work and exercise by himself; the reward is a horse who is now challenging his own stablemate Master Minded for supremacy in his division.

"He's mentally right now," said Nicholls. "Quite possibly something had been hurting him then that doesn't hurt him now. He wouldn't go on the gallops, he'd get in a tizz and hold the string up or he'd be perfectly capable of stopping halfway and planting himself. To not want to gallop, or even start, there must have been something troubling him that we couldn't find. On his own he couldn't cause any hassle and he started to relax, and that has turned him inside out physically as well and I've never seen him look as well as he did today. He's grown up in every way."

The quirks are still there below the surface, though. Before the race, Ruby Walsh had his feet out of the stirrups and rode like a cowboy to the start, keeping all tension from his body and hands. As the runners circled behind the tapes, Nicholls' assistant, Dan Skelton, was there as a familiar, guiding presence for the reformed delinquent.

"The atmosphere on the racecourse can get to him," added Nicholls. "He fell out big-time with Sam Thomas at Cheltenham last year, dropping him a couple of times on the horse walk. And even though he's much more settled now, you wouldn't want him to get away with anything even once."

In his bad old days, Twist Magic had run an out-of-sorts second in yesterday's contest two seasons ago after winning the Tingle Creek Chase. This time, at 11-8 favourite, he followed last month's Sandown success with a similarly classy display. Walsh took him to the front after the third obstacle and, unlike his market rival Petit Robin, the only one to go with him as he started to draw away, crossed every fence foot-perfectly and came home 12 lengths clear. "He jumps, doesn't he?," was Walsh's succinct comment.

Next stop for Twist Magic, who carries the colours of Barry Fulton, Tony Hayward and Michael Lynch, will be another tilt at the Champion Chase, in which he has fallen and run sixth in the past two years, both behind Master Minded.

"He's never been lucky at Cheltenham before," said Nicholls, "and I needed him to win this today, just to show me he is a different horse this season, and that it will be worth going to the Festival again."

Bookmakers were divided in their opinions about Twist Magic's Champion Chase prospects; he has universally overtaken Irish-trained Forpadydeplasterer as clear second market choice, but at prices from 4-1 to 9-1.

Master Minded is a warm favourite and Nicholls reported yesterday that the seven-year-old, sidelined by rib injuries since an unexpected defeat in November, is making mighty strides towards his bid for a three-timer in the two-mile crown and is likely to reappear in the Game Spirit Chase at Newbury next month.

The next of the Manor Farm stars to step into the spotlight will be last year's Champion Hurdle runner-up Celestial Halo, who takes on some of Ireland's best, including Solwhit, at Leopardstown this afternoon. Yesterday's prep for the big race, in the mud at Haydock, produced a third successive defeat this season for the reigning king Punjabi, this time at the hands of Medermit.

The grey six-year-old, trained by Alan King, was only narrowly beaten by another Irish championship contender, Go Native, in one of the Festival novices' contests last year, and has now entered the title race's wide-open market as a 16-1 shot. "We can dream now," said King. "He needs to be fresh, so he'll go straight there."

By Nicky Henderson's recent standards, yesterday was only an ordinary day at the office, with second spots for Petit Robin, Punjabi and then Tasheba, who chased home Mamlook in the handicap hurdle here. It was a better one for the David Pipe team; the stable's beloved veteran Well Chief came home safely in fourth place in the feature chase, then 20 minutes after Mamlook's victory, Our Vic shrugged off his years to take the Peter Marsh Chase at Haydock. The gallant 12-year-old made all the running under his young rider Danny Cook.

Arts and Entertainment
books
Voices
Caustic she may be, but Joan Rivers is a feminist hero, whether she likes it or not
voicesShe's an inspiration, whether she likes it or not, says Ellen E Jones
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Sport
Diego Costa
footballEverton 3 Chelsea 6: Diego Costa double has manager purring
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
3D printed bump keys can access almost any lock
techSoftware needs photo of lock and not much more
Arts and Entertainment
The 'three chords and the truth gal' performing at the Cornbury Music Festival, Oxford, earlier this summer
music... so how did she become country music's hottest new star?
Life and Style
The spy mistress-general: A lecturer in nutritional therapy in her modern life, Heather Rosa favours a Byzantine look topped off with a squid and a schooner
fashionEurope's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln
News
Dr Alice Roberts in front of a
peopleAlice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
News
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Arts and Entertainment
Unsettling perspective: Iraq gave Turner a subject and a voice (stock photo)
booksBrian Turner's new book goes back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
News
The Digicub app, for young fans
advertisingNSPCC 'extremely concerned'
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Some of the key words and phrases to remember
booksA user's guide to weasel words
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Data Scientist (Data Mining, RSPSS, R, AI, CPLEX, SQL)

£60000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Senior Data Sc...

Law Costs

Highly Attractive Salary: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - This is a very unusual law c...

Junior VB.NET Application Developer (ASP.NET, SQL, Graduate)

£28000 - £30000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Junior VB.NET ...

C# .NET Web Developer (ASP.NET, JavaScript, jQuery, XML, XLST)

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Web De...

Day In a Page

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor
She's dark, sarcastic, and bashes life in Nowheresville ... so how did Kacey Musgraves become country music's hottest new star?

Kacey Musgraves: Nashville's hottest new star

The singer has two Grammys for her first album under her belt and her celebrity fans include Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams and Katy Perry
American soldier-poet Brian Turner reveals the enduring turmoil that inspired his memoir

Soldier-poet Brian Turner on his new memoir

James Kidd meets the prize-winning writer, whose new memoir takes him back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
Aston Villa vs Hull match preview: Villa were not surprised that Ron Vlaar was a World Cup star

Villa were not surprised that Vlaar was a World Cup star

Andi Weimann reveals just how good his Dutch teammate really is
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef ekes out his holiday in Italy with divine, simple salads

Bill Granger's simple Italian salads

Our chef presents his own version of Italian dishes, taking in the flavours and produce that inspired him while he was in the country
The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

If supporters begin to close bank accounts, switch broadband suppliers or shun satellite sales, their voices will be heard. It’s time for revolution