One to savour for Twiston-Davies
It took just one race of Cheltenham's season to find a Festival contender with Nigel Twiston-Davies fizzing with enthusiasm for The New One.
The grand son of King's Theatre cut a swathe through most of his opposition in the bumper ranks, winding up by taking the championship event at Aintree, and he looks to be carrying on in the same vein at hurdling.
The Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle was a step up in class after an unchallenging reappearance at Newton Abbot and the even-money favourite could well have met another top recruit to the division in Philip Hobbs' Village Vic.
While The New One and the trainer's son Sam eventually came two and three-quarter lengths clear, Village Vic himself was almost a distance ahead of the remainder.
Twiston-Davies snr said: "As soon as we got him he was good - he was broken in in August and was winning effortlessly by November.
"He's very exciting - as exciting as you get. He didn't get a clean run at the Festival, otherwise he'd be near unbeaten.
"He'll probably come back here next month and two and a half miles is his trip for the time being. Who knows, Big Buck's won't be around forever, and maybe he'll be three-mile hurdling and then chasing in time."
A quick boost for the form came when Aintree fourth Court Minstrel (6-1) claimed the Lemington Maiden Hurdle.
The gelding does continue to perplex his handler Evan Williams, who said: "I can't remember running one horse in as many bumpers before, but he has still not learned to settle.
"He schooled badly and was guessy early on today, although you can see he has lots of natural ability."
The Showcase meeting is serving as an aperitif for next month's Open meeting and a few Irish trainers thought it was a valid excuse for a reconnaissance.
Gordon Elliott invariably comes mob-handed and his Carlito Brigante was a narrow victor of an eventful squareintheair.com Novices' Chase.
The 2011 Coral Cup winner had got his chasing career started at Killarney in the spring and luck was on his side here with both long-time leader Go All The Way and the smooth-travelling Kingsmere coming down at the second-last fence.
This left Paul Nicholls' Domtaline as the one to beat but Carlito Brigante (5-1) and Davy Russell wore him down on the run-in and finished a short-head in front, surviving a stewards' inquiry when the pair got close.
"He seems to like Cheltenham and he has to have good ground, so I expect he'll come back here next month," Elliott said.
"He's been a good horse to have around. We moved to a new yard a month ago, just 10 minutes away from the old one outside Trim, and we've had 10 or 11 winners already."
Richard Hughes took some time out from chasing the Flat jockeys' title to leg Bryan Cooper up aboard his father Dessie's Action Master (20-1), who came from a long way back to strike in the Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle qualifier.
"We were sick of the heavy ground in Ireland and the horse wants good ground - he only got it once and was second, finishing fast in the Ulster Cesarewitch," said Hughes snr.
"He just has to creep and creep through the race. He could come back for the Festival, and we'll tip away until then."
Nicholls was thrilled with the performance of Sire Collonges (4-1), who refused to yield to 11-8 favourite Sea Of Thunder and ran out a fairly convincing two-length winner of the Bruton Knowles 150th Anniversary Novices' Chase.
"He's a hard horse to get fit and he has to have his races spaced out," Nicholls said of the grey, who is quoted at 20-1 by Paddy Power for the RSA Chase.
"He took a long time to come to himself but he jumped well and will keep on improving. I really think he could be anything and he will either come back here in a month or run at the Hennessy meeting."
Twiston-Davies had a double when 7-2 favourite Hunters Lodge clung on to the Talk To Victor Amateur Riders' Handicap Chase, although he had a considerable slice of luck after the dangerous Romanesco crashed out at the last.