The New One appears to face a straightforward task in today’s StanJames.com Champion Hurdle Trial at Haydock.
Nigel Twiston-Davies’ stable star was set to clash with last season’s Triumph Hurdle winner Peace And Co, but he was ruled out yesterday morning as Nicky Henderson was not totally happy with the five-year-old.
That means The New One will face just five rivals and he has 11lb in hand on official ratings.
However, he also looked to have a open goal 12 months ago in the race when, as a 1-6 favourite, he needed to be hard ridden to beat Bertimont by just over two lengths.
After a simple comeback win at Kempton this season, The New One suffered a minor setback which left him short of work before his Christmas assignment at Kempton, when he was second to the current champion hurdler Faugheen.
“There’s some very nice prize money on offer and his task has been made easier with Nicky’s horse not running,” said Twiston-Davies.
“It’s a shame actually, it would have been a good race and it would have been nice to take him on, but there you go. It was a strange race last year, I didn’t know what to make of it then and I still don’t.
“Obviously he wasn’t in love with the ground and he’s going to have to put up with it again, but there aren’t many options for horses as good as him.
“If he didn’t run here there is Sandown (Contenders Hurdle) or Wincanton (Kingwell), but then you are getting a bit too close to comfort to the Champion Hurdle so your hand is forced somewhat.
“I’d made it clear before the Christmas Hurdle that he had been held up and that he was short of proper work so in the circumstances I thought he ran a nice race, he certainly wasn’t disgraced.”
Melodic Rendezvous, winner in 2014, is the closest rival to The New On on the figures but was beaten in handicap company last time out.
The winner that day, Oliver Sherwood’s Rayvin Black, steps up in grade for this contest.
“He’s very difficult to place now. He’s gone up to a career high rating of 146,” said Sherwood.
“He loves this ground and he’ll be running round for place money.”
Strongpoint mixes hurdling and chasing with a degree of success for Northern Irish trainer Stuart Crawford and finished third in the race 12 months ago.
“It’s not the route we wanted to take, but there aren’t many options for a horse like him,” said Crawford.
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