Twiston-Davies backs Ballyandy for Champion Hurdle

Nigel Twiston-Davies hopes Ballyandy can continue his recent revival by giving him the victory former stable star The New One could not quite manage in his four attempts at the Unibet Champion Hurdle.

Having spent most of last season contesting handicaps, the 2016 Champion Bumper winner will bid for a second Cheltenham Festival victory when returning to Grade One company in the prestigious two-mile contest.

Ballyandy opened his account for the season in the Champion Hurdle Trial at Haydock on his last start, having previously finished second in the International at Cheltenham in December and third in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton.

Twiston-Davies said: “He has beaten one of the favourites in Pentland Hills twice – hopefully he will do it again, and I’m hoping he will run another big race, as it is not the strongest Champion Hurdle.

“He has done very well and is in top form. The softer ground will help him and the return to the Cheltenham hill will suit him down to the ground.

“The hill brings out the best in him when he is powering on at the end. He was unlucky not to win the International and that is only because he got interfered with, otherwise I’m sure he would have won. He loves the track, which is good.

“The drop back to two miles has suited him down to the ground. He has also got his confidence back, as we did take him over fences and it shook him a bit. Now his hurdling is slick and he enjoys running over them over two miles.”

Twiston-Davies believes Bristol De Mai can defy his double-figure price tag for the Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup and build on his third in the blue riband from 12 months ago.

He said: “He was the best of the British in the race and has he got any worse? I don’t think so. He is in tremendous form.

“I’m just amazed Santini is favourite for the Gold Cup. We were giving him 2lb (at Cheltenham in January) and we were looking all over the winner at the bottom of the hill.

“He slipped on landing and that cost him the race. He is 33-1 and Santini is favourite, but I think we have a very good chance.”

Ascot Chase winner Riders Onthe Storm remains on course to make it four from four this season in the Ryanair Chase.

Twiston-Davies said: “He did all he could and that was win nicely. Obviously Cyrname didn’t turn up at the races and they have said Traffic Fluide might have won, but Josh Moore thought he was tired.

“You never expect they are going to do what he has done. but he has grown up as time has gone on and hopefully that will continue in the Ryanair Chase.”

Twiston-Davies will adopt more positive tactics with Al Dancer in a bid to return the grey to winning ways in the Racing Post Arkle Novices’ Chase.

He said: “He has been a little bit disappointing. We’ve not made enough use of him and I think we will make more use of him this time and he will be better for that.

“He was absolutely cruising (in the Lightning Novices’ Chase at Doncaster) and it looked like he was going to win by half the track, but Sam (Twiston-Davies) didn’t kick on when he had all that extra pace.

“He thinks he should have done and if he did he would have probably put that to bed.”

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