Sam Twiston-Davies is already enjoying his best season in the saddle and he could also now come of age at the Cheltenham Festival.
Since being appointed as Paul Nicholls’ No.1 jockey last April, the door to a stable brimming with top-class horses has been unlocked for Twiston-Davies.
Last season, Twiston-Davies rode 115 winners. He is already passed the century mark this season and will, barring injury, set a new personal best by the time the campaign concludes.
He will also now be hoping the quantity is matched by the quality when it comes to the Cheltenham Festival in March.
Twiston-Davies has ridden two Festival winners in his career to date. He was just 17 when he won the Foxhunters’ on his father Nigel’s Baby Run in 2010. He then landed the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle two years ago on board The New One, also trained by his dad.
Though he is stable jockey to Nicholls, Twiston-Davies came to an agreement so that he could still ride The New One.
However, connections are happy with how The New One came out of that race and attributed the lacklustre nature of the performance to the ground.
Given that The New One was an unlucky third in last season’s Champion Hurdle, he has the potential to give Twiston-Davies a big win on the opening day of the Festival.
Now that he is riding for Nicholls, the 22-year-old, who grew up barely half-an-hour from Cheltenham, has decent chances in the feature races on each day of the Festival.
The improving Dodging Bullets will take in the Queen Mother Champion Chase after winning the Tingle Creek Chase and the Clarence House Chase on his last two starts.
Twiston-Davies was in the saddle for the Tingle Creek win, but missed out on the Clarence House as it was the same day he rode The New One at Haydock.
Dodging Bullets lowered the colours of the returning Sprinter Sacre at Ascot and showed a tremendous fighting spirit to win. He has improved immensely this season and has to be feared at Cheltenham due to the doubts about main market rivals Sprinter Sacre and Sire De Grugy – the last two winners of the race.
The Thursday of the Festival should see Twiston-Davies take the mount on Al Ferof in the Ryanair Chase. The pair finished third in the King George at Kempton on Boxing Day, but the Ryanair trip will be more suitable.
The World Hurdle, meanwhile, will likely put Twiston-Davies on board either Saphir Du Rheu or Zarkandar. Twiston-Davies received backing from Nicholls after his ride on Zarkandar at Ascot just before Christmas, when he was beaten by his stable predecessor Daryl Jacob, drew criticism.
Gold Cup day brings the Festival to a close and also one of the horses in the Nicholls yard which Twiston-Davies doesn’t ride – Silviniaco Conti.
Currently favourite for the Gold Cup, Silviniaco Conti is ridden by Noel Fehily and won the King George on Boxing Day.
So that will leave Twiston-Davies to ride Sam Winner, who was third to Road To Riches in the Lexus Chase over Christmas.
Sam Winner, like Silviniaco Conti, is heading to the Gold Cup without another run. He has already tasted success at Cheltenham this season in a race run over a longer distance than the Gold Cup.
He needs to improve to win the Blue Riband of National Hunt racing, but he doesn’t possess the stamina doubts that still linger over Silviniaco Conti.
There will also be plenty more races in which Twiston-Davies will have a chance at the Festival and the local lad will be eager to make his mark.