The two equine stars – one already with a place in the firmament and one rising rapidly – who made their way from Nigel Twiston-Davies's base to Warwick yesterday both twinkled satisfactorily brightly in their respective tasks. Imperial Commander, the 2010 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner, had an exercise gallop as the latest part of his rehabilitation after a leg injury and his young stablemate The New One had little more than that as he took the Grade Two novices' hurdle.
The New One has now won six of his seven races, including all three over hurdles. Yesterday's success as 1-2 favourite was fairly bloodless but efficiently impressive nonetheless. His rivals were in trouble as soon as his rider Sam Twiston-Davies, son of the trainer, turned the screw and upped his mount's relentless cruising speed going down the back straight, and the partnership came home an eased-down 16 lengths clear.
The five-year-old is now vying for favouritism with the Irish-trained Pont Alexandre at the head of the market for the Cheltenham Festival contest over the same two- mile, five-furlong trip, the Neptune Novices Hurdle. His performance in testing conditions was, in the view of Andrew Tinkler on the runner-up, Mickie, that of "a complete machine", but Twiston-Davies Snr's feet typically remained firmly on the ground.
"He seems to have speed and staying power but he does more at home than he's just done there," he said. "It's a shame we haven't really learned anything, as some of the others didn't go in the ground."
The New One was racing for the first time since scoring at Cheltenham in October and is likely to have another outing as part of his learning curve before the Festival.
As for the old one, he is likely to make his first competitive appearance for nearly two years in the Argento Chase at Cheltenham in 13 days' time. Imperial Commander has not raced since finishing lame in the 2011 Gold Cup, and although he is 12 he showed plenty of sprightly zest under Paddy Brennan as he pulled clear of his galloping companion after a circuit of the track, his second racecourse workout in a week.
"He'll tell me more about how he is in the next week than today," Twiston-Davies said, "but he finished with a flourish and seemed to recover quickly. I'm happy with how he is, and the Argento is the plan."
The richest contest at the Midlands track, the Betfred Classic Chase over nearly three-and-three-quarter miles, proved a war of attrition. As Godsmejudge, jumping well, and his close attendant Pete The Feat set the rhythm in front, only one rival, Rigadin De Beauchene, could keep any sort of contact as rivals dropped away. His challenge had seemed foiled by a slow leap at the last, but then stamina is the stock- in-trade of his family; he is a half-brother to the Welsh National winner Miko De Beauchene – likewise trained by Venetia Williams – and another sibling, Prince De Beauchene, is currently favourite for the real thing at Aintree.
Rigadin's rider, Robbie Dunne, stayed cool, gathered him up and as the eight-year-old's staying power kicked in, one last brave effort wore down Godsmejudge in the last few strides to take the prize by half a length, with Pete The Feat, going for a six-timer, an equally honourable third.
At Kempton, Nicky Henderson took the main spoils as the 5-1 second favourite Oscara Dara survived a last-flight blunder to win the Lanzarote Hurdle under Barry Geraghty. The gelding, who had finished second on his debut over fences in heavy going at Plumpton last month, will now stick to the smaller obstacles for the rest of the season, with the Coral Cup his target at the Festival.
Henderson confirmed that another of his charges, the 2010 Champion Hurdle hero Binocular, will make his seasonal debut at Leopardstown at the end of the month.