We are delighted to welcome Sam Twiston-Davies to RaceBets! The brilliant jockey is our new brand-ambassador.
Sam who is the son of top trainer Nigel, had his first taste of the spotlight when just 16 years of age. The jockey won the Irish Champion Hunter Chase at Punchestown, with a horse called Baby Run. He had already given us an indication of his ability, when finishing third on the same horse in the Foxhunter Chase at Cheltenham.
That was in 2009 and in the very-next year the partnership lined-up again for another tilt at the Foxhunter Chase. Baby Run made all and (despite wandering up the hill) held-on gamely to beat Kitty Storm by 5 lengths. It capped-off an incredible day for the Twiston-Davies family, as Imperial Commander had already won the Gold Cup with a convincing defeat of Denman after race-favourite Kauto Star dramatically fell.
Early Success With Hello Bud
He won the 2010/2011 Conditional Jockey Championship and any thoughts racing fans had that Sam was simply benefitting from family connections were quickly being dispelled. He rode superbly in the Grand National, bringing home Hello Bud in 5th place and steered the same horse to victory in the the Becher Handicap Chase.
“He jumped from fence to fence and travelled like a superstar. When Ballyvesey passed me I just tried to save a little bit turning for home and save the stick for as long as possible.” said a delighted Sam, after the race.
The New One Wins The Neptune
In 2013, Sam was tasked with piloting The New One in the Neptune Investment Management Novice Hurdle at Cheltenham. The horse had run in the 2012 Champion Bumper and had won the Grade 2 Leamington Novices’ Hurdle by 16 lengths, before suffering a narrow defeat at the hands of At Fishers Cross in the Grade 2 Classic Novices’ Hurdle.
Sam bided his time and hit the front as they approached the final flight. In a flash, the race was over as The New One showed his class and won going away from both Rule Of Law and Pont Alexandre. The victory was a much needed boost, for the Twiston-Davies family. Several of Nigel’s top horses were not at their best and the trainer himself was too ill to fully watch the famous win take place.
“I only saw the last hurdle. We knew which horses were right and which were wrong. We knew he was right. We’re still trying to work out how he got beat in the bumper here last year but he came out and beat My Tent Or Yours next time so we knew what we thought of him was right.” said the trainer, who spent most of the afternoon at Cheltenham recovering from illness behind closed doors.
Champion Chase Glory
In 2014, Sam was booked to ride Dodging Bullets for the first time, at Aintree, in the Manifesto Novices’ Chase. The horse blundered badly, four from home and ended up finishing last of five. However, Paul Nicholls remained convinced that Sam was the man for him and the Dubawi-sired gelding. His faith was rewarded when Dodging Bullets landed the Tingle Creek, at the end of the year. The race featured the likes of Somersby, Balder Success, God’s Own and of course Oscar Whisky who sadly suffered a fatal fall.
“They went at a nice gallop and I always had one to aim at, so it worked out well. This is why this is an amazing job – to ride horses like this, I’m very lucky.” Sam told reporters, afterwards.
Noel Fehily was chosen to ride Dodging Bullets, in the Clarence House Chase and another victory was secured but the trainer turned back to Sam for the race that would define the horse’s career – the Queen Mother Champion Chase at the 2015 Cheltenham Festival.
The formidable line-up included Sprinter Sacre, Special Tiara, Somersby, Sire De Grugy, Simply Ned, Sizing Europe and stablemate Mr Mole. As expected, Special Tiara made the early-pace. Sam made sure that Dodging Bullets was also prominent, securing a perfect position on the rail.
Sire De Grugy was not jumping fluently and Sam brought up his mount to eyeball Special Tiara as they approached the second-last. Dodging Bullets took the lead at this fence, but Somersby was rolling back the years and moving up to challenge on the outside. Sprinter Sacre was by this point a beaten horse and would soon be pulled-up.
Sire De Grugy remained in touch, but was paying the price for his poor jumping. Only Somersby and the game Special Tiara looked capable of landing a late blow on Dodging Bullets, but the Nicholls horse showed true grit up the hill and held on to beat Somersby by just over a length. Sam Twiston-Davies was now a Champion race winner at Cheltenham and a young jockey with the world at his feet.
Nicholls clearly felt Dodging Bullets hadn’t been talked-up enough, prior to the race and said “I know the other two were past champions [Sprinter Sacre and Sire De Grugy], but I couldn’t see why they were ahead of us in the betting, it must have been on sentiment. Dodging Bullets was the progressive young horse and it’s them that usually come out on top… I thought Sam gave him a fantastic ride. Sam is so much more confident this season, it all just takes a bit of bedding in but he’s been awesome this year. He rides really well and we’re all very fond of him.”
The significance of the victory was not lost on Sam: “It is a massive win and hopefully means I keep hold of the job for years to come.”
Cheltenham & Aintree
The jockey got his wish and he’s now Nicholls’ go-to man for the big races, but Sam still rides regularly for his father Nigel and he’ll be on-board Blaklion, the current ante-post favourite, in this year’s Aintree Grand National. The fact that Nicholls has released his top jockey to effectively ride against his own Grand National runners is a firm indication of the strong bond that has grown between the Nicholls and Twiston-Davies yards, since Sam has been riding for the ten-times Champion Trainer. Nicholls now has an outstanding crop of jockeys at his disposal, as Sam, Sean Bowen and Harry Cobden have now been joined by the brilliant Bryony Frost.
Before Aintree, there’s the small matter of the Cheltenham Festival of course and it’s going to be a massive four days for Sam. The New One has just won his fourth Champion Hurdle Trial at Haydock and is expected to take on the likes of Supasundae, Yanworth, Sam Spinner and Penhill in the Stayers’ Hurdle. Malaya looks well-treated for the Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle and Sam will relish the opportunity to take on the mighty Altior in the Champion Chase with Politologue.
RaceBets is very-excited to have this superb jockey on-board, as our new brand-ambassador and we wish him all the best for Cheltenham and beyond.
WATCH SAM TWISTON-DAVIES AND LUKE HARVEY PREVIEW DAY 1 OF CHELTENHAM HERE