Last year’s Champion Bumper hero Ballyandy waited until the biggest possible moment to shed his maiden tag with victory in yesterday’s £155,000 Betfair Hurdle at Newbury.
Nigel Twiston-Davies’ charge had been beaten on his three previous hurdles starts, but his handler had been convinced he was well treated in the run up to Britain’s richest handicap hurdle.
Partnered by the trainer’s son Sam, Twiston-Davies’ opinion was justified as Ballyandy outbattled Movewiththetimes to triumph as the 3-1 favourite.
Movewiththetimes (6-1) laid down a strong challenge but Ballyandy was equal to the task and asserted close home to strike by three-quarters of a length with Clyne (6-1) with six lengths away third and Song Light (14-1) a further two lengths back in fourth.
Twiston-Davies senior said: “I was gutted he was beaten the three times before. We were not hiding anything under a bush, he was unlucky to get beaten.
“It was the first time ever the handicapper had given us a bit of a chance.
“He could go for the Supreme now, but at the moment he is also in the two-and-a-half-mile race (Neptune) as well. If it is good ground he does stay, so it maybe he goes for the two-and-a-half-mile race.”
Native River (11-10) is another on course for Cheltenham with his place in the Timico Gold Cup assured following victory in the Betfair Denman Chase.
Aidan Coleman stepped in to partner the Colin Tizzard-trained winner with intended pilot Richard Johnson standing himself down due to illness, but a change in rider made little difference to Native River who kicked clear for a three-and-a-quarter-length verdict.
Tizzard said: “It’s just nice that Richard Johnson and Aidan Coleman were talking beforehand how to ride him. It was a brilliant performance. He is not just an out and out stayer, he has got a bit of pace about him.”