Sam looks a sure-fire star of the future

If Sam Twiston-Davies isn’t a star of the future then I’ll eat my hat. Following the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham on Tuesday he was inconsolable, but the young man had little about which to beat himself up.

Sam looks a sure-fire star of the future

He partnered The New One to finish third in the race and I don’t think I have ever seen a more unlucky loser at the festival.

It was astonishing to see Nigel Twiston-Davies’ six-year-old beaten less than three lengths at the end, after what happened to him when Our Conor took that fatal fall at the third.

Watch any race this weekend and note if a horse gets hampered at some stage. No matter how weak the contest might be the chances are that he will immediately be dead and buried.

Move up many notches to the highest grade of all, the Champion Hurdle, where everything basically has to go almost completely right if you are to win. When Our Conor departed, he stopped The New One in his tracks. That should have been it as far as The New One was concerned.

But what was so impressive about Twiston-Davies, the rider, was the amazing maturity he showed in the wake of literally everything going wrong.

His first instinct surely had to be to make up the ground on The New One as fast as possible.

If he had panicked it would have been perfectly understandable, given the enormity of the race, but entirely the wrong way to behave.

He didn’t, however, and allowed his charge all the time he needed to recover. I believe what the youngster did was exactly the tactics Ruby Walsh would have adopted in similar circumstances and there can be no greater praise than that.

Essentially, The New One was left with an impossible task and would have had to be in the Arkle league to get back into contention.

But the manner in which he motored from the final turn to the line was massively impressive.

He evidently possesses a savage engine, but does have to improve his jumping technique to realise his full potential. The day he does that is the day he will run away with a top race, no matter what the strength of the opposition.

The defeat of Hurricane Fly was sad to see, but surely far from unexpected. A long time ago we learned to ignore nearly everything you hear, most of it is second hand rumour anyway, and rely almost exclusively on what one’s own two eyes are telling you.

There were thousands of punters, and they weren’t exclusively Irish either, who were prepared to dismiss what they had been looking at through the season in the belief that it would be fine on the day.

But it wasn’t fine on the day and, at least to my way of thinking, Hurricane Fly ran the way he’d been running through the campaign.

I was common knowledge that Wicklow Brave was working better than Vautour, on the lead-in to Cheltenham, but what happened out on the track, in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, emphasised again that such information can often prove utterly irrelevant.

Anyone who has ever played a bit of sport, whether its hurling, football, soccer, whatever, will have met the player that would take the eye out of your head in training and in games of little consequence.

And then, on the big day, the only one to count, it would be easier to find the invisible man.

Vautour is clearly not flash at home, but if you got into a fight in a pub then you wouldn’t mind having him on your side.

He’s a racehorse and a half and if Willie Mullins thinks will be even better over fences then the sky really is the limit.

And you would very much have to apply similar remarks to Faugheen, so impressive for the Mullins-Walsh team in Wednesday’s Neptune Hurdle.

The way that horse was organised for Cheltenham was fascinating, because he did not beat any rival of note in his three romps here at home.

But you doubt Mullins at your peril and he really does have this meeting cracked. To produce Faugheen, mistakes and all, and there were a few, to do what he did simply emphasised the sheer genius of the man.

Two things happened at Cheltenham this week which I think are more than worth recording. The first was the reception afforded Quevega, after she had made history in the Mares’ Hurdle.

When the clapping and cheering should have been put to bed, it started again as she was led away from the winner’s enclosure. Quevega was actually applauded, with some gusto, as she left proceedings.

Then on Wednesday, Tony McCoy was sent tumbling to the ground when Goodwood Mirage was brought down at the second, the hurdle in front of the stands, in the Fred Winter Juvenile Hurdle.

He was kissing the turf for a while and the worst was feared. But then the course commentator, as the race continued, announced that McCoy was on his feet and the news was greeted with a spontaneous round of applause.

It brought home how much respect the thousands on site had for both Quevega and McCoy.

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