Nigel Twiston-Davies NAP's Al Dancer At The Festival

Nigel Twiston-Davies NAP's Al Dancer At The Festival

In the topic of stable tours and media conferences, trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies has come out and confirmed that his best chance of a Cheltenham Festival winner actually comes from the opening race, where Al Dancer will look to justify ante-post favouritism in the Supreme Novices Hurdle.

The first race on the Tuesday raises the curtain on the heavily-anticipated four-day Cheltenham Festival, usually greeted by the infamous roar from the packed out stands at Prestbury Park.

Twiston-Davies is fully aware of the noise threat for his star grey, for whom he made clear, must settle in the preliminaries if he is to be at his optimum best.

(Credit: Racing Post) He said: "When we were watching the race at Ascot he was very free and it was a relief to see him finish off his race so strongly.

"My initial reaction was that he might not get away with it at Cheltenham. In the Supreme a truly-run race is essential, but it's one in which they rarely hang about and the quicker they go, the better it will be for our horse.

"He's in really good form; his latest run doesn't appear to have taken anything out of himself at all. If he gets top of the ground or some cut, it won't bother him.

"Furthermore he's already been to Cheltenham this season and on that day he appeared to relish coming up the hill. He travelled and quickened, and never looked like stopping.

"If he gets the fast pace and a bit of cover he requires he should run very well. He certainly looks our best chance of a winner at the Festival."

(Credit Racing TV)

The 6yo has been in eye-catching form this term, and deserves the title of favouritism for the Grade One event, having extended his unbeaten run over hurdles to four, with victory in the rearranged Betfair Hurdle at Ascot recently.

The Gloucestershire trainer believes he has a fantastic and realistic opportunity to win the race for the first time in twenty-five years, since Arctic Kinsman prevailed back in 1994.

He came closest to breaking that feat three years ago, when Ballyandy - also a previous winner of the Betfair Hurdle, failed to fulfil his promise in the Supreme having landing the Champion Bumper twelve months before.

Twiston-Davies' selection of his best opportunity of a winner at Cheltenham with a novice, has cast doubts over his confidence in Bristol De Mai's chances in the first-time Magners sponsored Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Bristol De Mai is very much one of the forgotten quantities in the field, due to the stories featuring Presenting Percy's whereabouts and Clan Des Obeaux's mature progression.

The Haydock specialist has not been seen since unshipping Daryl Jacob in the King George VI Stakes at Kempton Park on Boxing Day, an unusual outcome for the grey who had never failed to complete a race in all of his twenty-seven attempts until then.

Nevertheless, he cannot be discounted from his Betfair Chase form, and will look to play a part in the Cheltenham feature, having missed the Festival last season.

(Credit: Racing Post) Twiston-Davies added: "He's been a slightly fragile horse along the way, but happily we haven't had a single problem with him this season.

"He definitely seems over-priced when you look at his form and take in that he's the equal top-rated chaser in Britain and Ireland.

"In the Betfair Chase the ground was close to being good and you saw how much he enjoyed it, so it would be wrong to say he needs some cut...it's a wide-open year with a lot of runners," he finished.

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