Play it again, Sam! Twiston-Davies eyeing third Caspian with Riders Onthe Storm

Saturday's Caspian Caviar Gold Cup is a lucky charm for Sam Twiston-Davies and the big-race jockey has family motives as well as financial ones stacking up for his ride on favourite Riders Onthe Storm. 

Only Richard Johnson has won the Cheltenham race more times than Twiston-Davies and victory for the 4-1 market leader would hand his rider a third win in seven years.

Bookmakers are hoping Twiston-Davies won't be so lucky. They have been stung once already – when Riders Onthe Storm left his owners Carl Hinchy and Mark Scott singing in the Aintree winner's enclosure after an impressive debut for Nigel Twiston-Davies last month. 

Trainer's son Sam, a winner of the Caspian Caviar on Double Ross in 2013 and Frodon three years later, is optimistic of another bold display, especially as it would help flag up the burgeoning pre-training business his younger brother Willy and close pal Ryan Hatch operate next door to Nigel's main base in Gloucestershire – just 13 miles from Cheltenham.

They put the initial fitness work into Riders Onthe Storm after he was sourced at the sales.

"I've been lucky with some of the horses I've ridden in this race," said Twiston-Davies.

"The plan was always the first day at Aintree and it was nice that went well. He jumped and travelled well and the handicapper hasn't missed him, but we hope he's still in good form.

"It's hard to know about his mark as we've only had him a limited amount of time, so we're still learning. We thought 10lb initially was fair enough, but he's got another 3lb since, so we'll see on Saturday."

Twiston-Davies, enjoying a fine campaign and third in the jockeys' title standings, added: "Carl found the horse himself and purchased him and he was pre-trained by Willy and Hatchy.

"That's their business now and when the horses was bought from the sales he went there and they did the early-season work before he went to Nigel's.

"Touch wood, all has been smooth since Aintree and Cheltenham is a different type of track, so there are those fears, but they tend to go a nice honest gallop in this race. Hopefully he can relax and jump well, and have an equally good chance."

Willy Twiston-Davies has 20 horses on the yard at present but is looking forward to expanding to 40 or so and to installing new facilities when the premises owned by his mother Cath, which have until recently been occupied by Fergal O'Brien, are available again.

He said: "After Carl bought Riders Onthe Storm at the sales he rang me to ask if Ryan and I would have him for pre-training, so we had him for two or three months. At that stage he wasn't sure where he and Mark Scott were going to have him trained, but we got him three-quarters fit and then Carl said that my dad should have him. 

"He used to be keen in his races, but Carl had been up to see him and saw how well he settled now. Sam loved him too, so we all agreed that was the right thing to do, then of course he went and won at Aintree, which was great."
Dad Nigel, who trained Double Ross to win the Caspian Caviar in 2013, has a sparkling record at Cheltenham's December meeting, with ten winners in the last six years.

The going on the chase and hurdles courses at Cheltenham was on Wednesday eased to good to soft, good in places, from good, good to soft in places. Up to 12 mm of rain was forecast before racing on Friday, the first day of the meeting.