Sam’s the man for Nicholls

Garde La Victoire (Richard Johnson, right), jumps the last  to win The Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham yesterday. Picture: Nigel French/PA Wire

Sam Twiston-Davies and Paul Nicholls proved the star turns at Cheltenham on Saturday as the relatively new partnership enjoyed a red-letter day in their association with a high-profile double.

It was announced at the end of April that the champion trainer had recruited one of the sport’s brightest young talents and their first important win came when Twiston-Davies persisted with Sam Winner (15-2) in the Murphy Group Handicap Chase.

But the best was yet to come in the Paddy Power Gold Cup as Caid Du Berlais (10-1) deprived reigning champion Johns Spirit by a head in a barnstorming finish to the Open meeting’s feature event.

Nicholls had been so worried about the testing conditions he nearly pulled out the five-year-old, and he had instructed Twiston-Davies to follow Johns Spirit and keep to the better ground on the outside of the course.

Johns Spirit was produced in similar fashion to 12 months ago by Richie McLernon and went clear after jumping the final fence.

Rather than 10st 2lb, though, he was saddled with 11st 12lb and the white-faced gelding could not cope with the final charge of Caid Du Berlais.

“He nearly didn’t run, so that’s fantastic,” said Nicholls. “Sam rode him brilliantly, he just kept on the outside and followed Richie.

“Sam’s won with two different rides today that were top-drawer. He’s a good young man, he doesn’t panic and he’s improving all the time.

“This was a big day for Sam and I’m really pleased with him. He has done exactly what we asked him to.”

David Pipe and Tom Scudamore enjoy a well-established partnership and they were also in double form with Kings Palace and Katkeau.

Kings Palace made a foot-perfect fencing debut to win the Cheltenham Club Novices’ Chase winning by four lengths from Sausalito Suprise.

Pipe said: “That was brilliant, he jumped well, it got better as he went on.

“I would have thought we’d be working backwards from Cheltenham in March and the RSA Chase.”

Katkeau defied an absence of 630 days in the Ultima Business Solutions Handicap Hurdle, with Grand National winner Pineau De Re well beaten.

Philip Hobbs and Richard Johnson were back on the scoresheet for the meeting after an opening day treble as Golden Doyen (13-8 fav) found plenty for pressure to win the JCB Triumph Hurdle Trial.

Hobbs said: The Triumph is the target now, you’d have to say he’s the best juvenile seen so far. He’s my best, but I don’t have many.”

Battalion produced a dazzling change of gear to turn the Coral Churchill Stakes at Lingfield into a procession.

Yesterday saw Garde La Victoire complete a Cheltenham meeting far beyond the expectations of Hobbs and Johnson as his Greatwood Hurdle victory made a total of six winners across the three days for the trainer and seven for the jockey.

The combination took two of the most prestigious of the final afternoon, with Dunraven Storm showing admirable battling qualities in the Racing Post Arkle Trophy Trial Novices’ Chase.

Hobbs stressed Garde La Victoire (10-1) was not in the league of one of his previous winners in the Grade Three handicap, subsequent Champion Hurdler Rooster Booster, but the strong prize money sees the trainer sitting at the top of the championship standings.

“Richard came back and just said ‘this isn’t a dream is it?’,” said Hobbs.

“It’s unbelievable. I can’t remember having six winners at any meeting so we’ll enjoy it while it lasts.”


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