New team eye Aintree consolation
Views from connections ahead of Thursday's Doom Bar Aintree Hurdle, with The New One set to be a red-hot favourite.
The New One is likely to be a red-hot favourite as he bids to put the record straight after an unlucky run at Cheltenham when he lines up for the Doom Bar Aintree Hurdle at the Liverpool course on Thursday.
The New One appeared to lose all chance when badly hampered by the fatal fall of Our Conor at the third flight in the Champion Hurdle, but he finished to such good effect that he was only beaten two and three-quarter lengths in third place behind Jezki.
He has also a point to prove in this race as he was second, beaten half a length by Zarkandar 12 months ago when he was a novice.
Trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies has every faith The New One can put things right.
"Everything has gone to plan since Cheltenham and he seems in good form. We're looking forward to it," said the Naunton handler.
"He was second in it last year and we hope he's a better horse than he was then. He was unlucky in the Champion Hurdle - let's hope we can make up for it."
The New One's rider, Sam Twiston-Davies, the trainer's son, also goes to Aintree full of confidence.
"He seems in great heart and we are looking to put the unlucky stories behind us," he said.
"I don't know if he had a harder race because he had to make up so much ground. When it happened winning went out of my head and it was more about getting him balanced and getting him enjoying it again because he jumped the next two a bit scratchy.
"Don't get me wrong, I wasn't easy on him after the last, I really got stuck into him but he beat the reigning champion, Hurricane Fly, after being hampered so I think that speaks for itself."
Rock On Ruby reverts to hurdling after his limitations as a chaser were exposed when he was well-beaten in the Arkle Trophy at Cheltenham.
Harry Fry's stable star was third in this race two years ago after he had won the Champion Hurdle, but he was trounced 10 lengths by The New One when the pair clashed at Kempton in October.
"We made the decision to revert to hurdles after his disappointing run in the Arkle, where his mistake at the third cost him any chance and underlined his lack of scope at the highest level," said the Seaborough handler.
"He's not going to turn into a Queen Mother or a Ryanair horse next year so we're going back over hurdles.
"This is a tough ask with The New One who beat us handsomely on our reappearance at the start of the season at Kempton, but the step up in trip and the fact he didn't have that hard a race at Cheltenham as he came home in his own time might be a big plus for us but he still faces a tall order.
"He was third in this race the year he won the Champion Hurdle and he ran in the novice at Aintree after running a big race in the Neptune. He was probably feeling the effects of both races.
"Hopefully this time we go a bit fresher and in better form than we have done in the past, but he still faces a tough task."
While Paul Nicholls accepts The New One will be hard to beat, he feels that his two runners, Ptit Zig and Irish Saint, go there with place prospects.
"I've actually always thought Ptit Zig wanted good ground to be seen at his best, he won on it at Sandown last year," said the Ditcheat trainer.
"I think the fact he won over two and a half miles in France when they said it was very soft made people think he was a mudlark, but it wasn't as soft as they said that day.
"Irish Saint is versatile as regards the ground. He's nice and fresh and he was very impressive over nearly this trip at Ascot.
"Obviously they are both going to have to improve to beat The New One, but so will everything else. After The New One it is wide open and mine are both improving five-year-olds so have a good chance of being placed."
Grumeti won the Grade One 4-Y-O Hurdle on this card two years ago, but has fallen short at the top level since then and beat only one home in the Champion Hurdle on his latest start.
However, his trainer Alan King believes it is worth having a go and the extra half-mile should be in his favour.
"While it is a big task, the extra half-mile should help and the only other option was to wait for the Scottish Champion Hurdle at Ayr, where with My Tent Or Yours in there they will go plenty quick enough around for him," the Barbury Castle handler told www.alankingracing.co.uk.