The impressively burgeoning career of Sam Twiston-Davies took another notable step forward at Cheltenham over the weekend following a high-profile Saturday double courtesy of Double Ross and The New One.
Some may point to Sam enjoying the benefits of parental influence with his father regularly finding his way into the top dozen or so trainers in the championship table. However, such a relationship also comes with a heavy burden – especially if things go awry at times. Thankfully that has yet to happen in this particular father-son operation and is unlikely to do so as Twiston-Davies junior does nothing but improve at a rapidly impressive rate.
Indeed, to imbue their relationship with the requisite professionalism, Sam revealed last year that he does not now refer to the trainer as Father or Dad. He calls him Nigel. It’s all part of the necessary psychology as evinced a few decades ago when Brian Clough always referred to his son Nigel when the pair were together at Nottingham Forest as “our centre forward” or “our number nine.”
In previous seasons, STD has always given the impression that he is a bold and fearless talent who gave horses a cracking ride, often from the front, in line with how many stable inmates are ridden. The boldness and fearlessness remain but this season has witnessed a significant change. It is as if STD realised that his skills needed further honing and refinement – and that’s precisely what we are witnessing – the growth of talent into fully-fledged excellence.
The rides on Double Ross and The New One were evidence of a more refined jockey at work, especially when tracking the pace and then attacking at the right moment on Double Ross. Thereafter, the drive up the Cheltenham hill was potent and rhythmical as a major pot was added to the family CV.
The ride on The New One was a different commodity altogether but the fact that STD’s first response when having a microphone annoyingly thrust at him by Alice Plunkett on Channel 4 within seconds of finishing was to say that he got it wrong shows an ever-increasing degree of maturity and understanding of his craft.
The jury has hitherto remained out on The New One and remains so after Saturday’s success in the eyes of many an accomplished race-reader. Similar comments can be ascribed to My Tent Or Yours after his comeback success in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle so the proposed clash betwixt the pair over Christmas at Kempton is not only a mouth-watering prospect in itself but one which should go some way to clarifying the respective merits of two leading pretenders to the Hurricane Fly crown.
With Paul Nicholls also voicing his approval of Sam Twiston-Davies as a leading light of the new generation of young jockey talent – and trusting him with the ride, amongst significant others, on the mercurial Tidal Bay when the pair thrillingly landed a last-gasp victory in the Charlie Hall Chase in November – there seems no doubt whatsoever that this young man’s star will grow ever brighter.
Father Nigel has already stated that he would not stand in his son’s way should a “big job” be placed upon the table – a prospect that is likely to be filed in the “sooner rather than later” category at the current rate of progress. He would certainly receive my vote to become champion NH jockey should a certain Irishman ever decide to stop in his march towards 5,000 winners.