Things have, unfortunately, turned sour for Nigel since my visit, a virus of some kind nobbling some of his expected to run well next week but, it’s nothing life threatening and those horses mentioned live to fight another day.
This was what he had to say about his principle runners albeit some will not be in attendance.
When it comes to characters in this game you will have to go a long way to beat Mr Nigel Twiston-Davies – a class act, quiet yet efficient, humble yet capable, oh and did I mention he has his own double decker bus – even I managed to notice that as we walked by though sadly this year it was parked up -he often drives us from house to gallops himself which is fun! This year I got the feeling the pressure was off – no favourite in the Gold Cup, and so a more relaxed demeanour at the yard as Nigel put his horses up the gallops for our perusal
Imperial Commander – Gold Cup Thursday
Imperial Commander is an imposing horse who won the Gold Cup and did it well in 2010, seeing off Denman by seven lengths going away near the line, form not to be laughed at. He went on to add the Betfair chase at Haydock after unseating at Aintree before finishing lame in the Gold Cup 2011. Pretty much absent from the course since, he eventually returned at Cheltenham this January after close to two years off the track when going down by half a length to a much fitter Cape Tribulation with fans favourite Hunt Ball back in a third place. To say he is entitled to improve for the run is an understatement and Nigel assured us all that he is fit and well and as good as he ever was, in which case he comes here with every chance. The bounce factor was discussed (where a horse performs well on a comeback run but then poorly the race after), but as Nigel pointed out, that is usually when they run again quickly and in this case he will have had seven weeks or so between races, and I have to say he did and does look an absolute picture.
According To Trev – Pertemps Final Thursday or Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle Friday
This seven year old hasn’t a lot to shout about on his CV of late but given better ground they quietly fancy him for the Pertemps Final if the weight he is allotted is sensible of course. Fourth last time out at Musselburgh, he ought to be dropped a pound or two and I got the feeling a few of the stable lads and lasses may well have a few pence on him at odds around the 25/1 mark all things are possible.
Pigeon Island – Byrne Group Plate Thursday, Grand Annual Chase Friday
Considering his age (ten) this grey is apparently in the form of his life, which may yet mean he is very well weighted for whichever handicap he takes in? He loves Cheltenham and has won here twice in the past, while a win off of a rating of 141 over hurdles suggests he could be well in if back to his very best making odds of 40/1 for both contests sorely tempting?
The Cockney Mackem – Pulteney Land Investments Novices’ Handicap Chase Tuesday
Nigel can be a man of very few words so it can be a struggle getting much out of him but he seemed quite pleased with where this seven year old is though I struggle to understand quite why? He has not won a race of any kind since his debut in a bumper in September 2010 but has placed a few times over hurdles and then fences, including when second and third here at Cheltenham so he clearly handles the track. It is a handicap so the fact that they think he is fit and well could be enough to sway the scales in his favour, while his odds of 20/1 imply even the bookmakers feel he is in with some sort of chance.
Pure Science – Champion Bumper Wednesday
Nip and tuck whether this son of Galileo will or won’t get in to the race but his trainer clearly thinks a lot of him and he certainly has a big future. After winning first time out at Warwick when they suspected eh may need the run, we can ignore his last race when only fourth in a falsely run race that certainly didn’t suit him. No one is claiming he will win this high quality bumper but the way the race would be run would suit him down to the ground, and I doubt anyone in the yard would fall over in shock if he sneaked in to a place at a massive price.
The New One – Supreme Novices’ Hurdle Tuesday, Neptune Novices’ Hurdle Wednesday
He will head to the Neptune and comes with every chance. His trainer clearly thinks an awful lot of him and I know the jockey is still angry with himself for getting beaten by At Fishers Cross when he feels he went too soon while the ground was hardly a help. Nigel describes him as “He’s exceptional – he could be very special” which made me sit up and take notice, and he seems sure to be kept covered up until the last hurdle or so, while we also need to remember that he comfortably beat My Tent Or Yours at Aintree last year which now looks exceptional form.
African Gold – Pertemps Final Thursday, Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle Friday, Martin Pipe Handicap Hurdle Friday
Last but by no means least we have African Gold, who is most likely to head for the Albert Bartlett rather than take on the seasoned handicappers elsewhere. In the long term he is seen as a successor to Imperial Commander so that shows how highly regarded he is in the yard, though it also tells me he will improve for some fences. His odds of 14/1 seem a little bigger than I would expect and they must know where they stand with 11/2 shot At Fishers Cross so an each way bet may yet pay off.