Walking into Cheltenham on the first day of the Showcase meeting, I had the air of a child approaching Hamleys at Christmas time. Cheltenham should be very proud of themselves as they delivered a perfect curtain raiser to their season. The wet summer had helped to produce perfect jumping ground which led to quality cards along with a crowd figure of 11,500 on Friday and just over 17,000 on Saturday.
In the opening race of the meeting The New One put in a performance that screamed Festival. A facile success at Newton Abbot at the beginning of the month had put him spot on for the impressive victory over second placed Village Vic. Two and three quarter lengths split them at the line but the pair finished twenty one lengths clear of the useful Thomas Crapper. The form of the Listed Bumper that The New One won on New Year’s Day at Cheltenham, is working out very well indeed, with the fourth placed Southfield Theatre winning the concluding Bumper on Saturday. The third home on 1 January was Virginia Ash who was placed sixth (albeit beaten 33 lengths) behind the exciting Clondaw Kaempfer in the Sales Bumper at Fairyhouse at Easter. Donald McCain subsequently acquired Clondaw Kaempfer for £130,000 at the April Brightwells Sale. Featuring in third at Fairyhouse was the Sue Magnier owned Snake Eyes, who is held in very high regard at Seven Barrows. As you delve deeper into last season; The New One ties into all sorts of form lines. He was sixth to the RSA candidate Champagne Fever in the Champion Bumper at the Festival before beating My Tent Or Yours in the Grade Two Bumper at Aintree. Fourth in the same race was the Evan Williams trained Court Minstrel who showed us he has a real engine when winning the Lemington Maiden Hurdle at Cheltenham, beating The Romford Pele who was placed seventh in the Champion Bumper.
The New One travelled powerfully into the lead on Friday; it was that in particular that had me at first thinking he was an ideal candidate for the Supreme Novices. However, when I watched the replay I started to believe he was a contender for the Neptune. The manner of his victory coupled with the fact he had just won over the same course and distance changed my mind. Adding further fuel to this thought is the way he battled to outstay certain two miler My Tent Or Yours at Aintree. His Trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies said; “The Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle is certainly a race we are looking at for The New One. He has come out of his race on Friday brilliantly – he is very laid back and you wouldn’t know he’s had a race.” The next step for him en-route to the Festival is the Grade Two Neptune Investment Novices Hurdle on the final day of the Open Meeting next month. That race is part of the “Road to Cheltenham” series sponsored by Neptune that ends with their Grade One event in March.