The New One runs at Cheltenham tomorrow
Sam Twiston-Davies - rider of The New One
(Healy Racing Photos)
The Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained The New One, outright favourite for the race of the same name in March, will put his credentials on the line.
His sole defeat came in the Festival Bumper last year and he has been immensely impressive in three races over timber to date.
Sam Twiston-Davies is his lucky pilot and does not hold back in his praise.
"We'd be keen for a good gallop, but he's some animal," said Twiston-Davies junior.
"It's a very competitive race, but what he did at Warwick was very special indeed.
"He was visually very impressive that day, but I also think he has a lot of resilience if it comes to a battle.
"The only thing, possibly, is that this race is two weeks after the Warwick race, but he only really had a canter that day so it's probably not that big a deal.
"It will probably be very tacky ground, but he's won on soft ground and it will be the same for everyone. He's a proper horse."
The Rebecca Curtis-trained At Fishers Cross has progressed at a rate of knots this season.
Three wins, the latest in a handicap at Cheltenham, have really caught the eye.
"I wouldn't say he's surprised me as we've always thought he was a good horse," said Curtis.
"He's taken a bit of time to click but he is clearly progressing.
"I think he deserves to run in a race like this as he's been there and done it in good handicaps.
"This heavy ground seems to help his jumping, so that might come in handy at the weekend. He seems a horse on the up."
The Mark Bradstock-trained Coneygree has amassed a big following in three wins this season, which is not surprising given he is a half-brother to his Hennessy-winning stablemate Carruthers.
Mattie Batchelor is the man on board and he is not too concerned about the step back to two-and-a-half miles from three.
"He goes at a good clip but he's manageable and when someone comes at him, he goes again," said Batchelor.
"He's got a competitive edge and you'd rather have that than not.
"It's a good race with The New One and At Fishers Cross so it will be interesting.
"He could easily run a good race and get beat but enhance his Festival claims.
"We've won over this trip in bad ground and it will be a test tomorrow. They're all stayers.
"Of course you have to respect the others, they've earned the right, but I like my fellow.
"I think you'd have to say he's ahead of Carruthers at the same stage. His last two wins have been Grade Twos, although Carruthers won the race The New One won at Warwick.
"He's a much bigger stamp of a horse than Carruthers. He has ability but it's his heart that makes him what he his - I'm not saying Coneygree doesn't have a big heart, but it's easier for him.
"If he wins doing handstands, he could run in the Neptune I'd imagine, but it's ground dependant."
Completing the field are the Nicky Henderson-trained Whisper, unbeaten in two races, and Fergal O'Brien's Fiddlers Bid.
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