Exciting Times Ahead for the New Boy Wonder; SAM TWISTON-DAVIES; David Yates Talks to the Rising Star of the Weighing Room Who Could Have a Week to Remember
Byline: David Yates
FROM one Call Of Duty to another.
Sam Twiston-Davies was passing a January evening engaged in Xbox combat with younger brother Willy when his mobile rang - it was an invitation to the weighing room's top table.
Ruby Walsh's split from Paul Nicholls had created a vacancy aboard one of jump racing's biggest names -- four-time Ladbrokes World Hurdle hero Big Buck's.
Nicholls and owner Andy Stewart needed to secure a rider for the 11-year-old's return from a tendon injury in the Cleeve Hurdle -- and then for his attempt at a record fifth stayers' title.
Bar Walsh and AP McCoy, the pair had the pick of jumping's finest. They turned to Twiston-Davies.
"It was a pretty boring evening," says the 21-year-old son of Gold Cup and Grand National-winning trainer Nigel.
"That made it a lot more exciting. When you get the call up from Paul Nicholls to ride Big Buck's, it's something you can never dream of.
"I remember watching Aintree at home and watching Big Buck's win, thinking, 'That's amazing -- I'd love to do something like that one day.
"So to actually sit on a horse like that is magical.
"It's a great confidence boost. To me, it means they've noticed everything I'm working towards every day -- you've caught their eye and you're doing something they like."
By Thursday, Twiston-Davies could already have one of Cheltenham's championship races in safekeeping.
On the opening day, his father gives him the leg-up on Champion Hurdle favourite The New One (right).
The six-year-old entered the Champion reckoning with a four-length destruction of his Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle rivals last March.
This winter, his stock, like that of his jockey, has continued on the rise.
Victories at Kempton and Cheltenham were followed by a half-length defeat by Champion Hurdle foe My Tent Or Yours in the Christmas Hurdle on Boxing Day.
But an ugly mistake at the final flight cost The New One crucial momentum, and Twiston-Davies is confident of revenge.
"If I had winged the last, it might have been a different story, but we ended up missing it, and we got beat," says the carrot-top rider, whose cheery and open manner makes him a racing marketeer's dream.
"Cheltenham will suit us a lot, lot better, and I'm really happy with how our horse is. I had a sit on him the other day and he seems in great order. I wouldn't swap our fellow -- we do have a very special horse."
Festival punters were first acquainted with Twiston-Davies when, as a 17-year-old, he gave stable pet Baby Run a blood-and-thunder ride from the front to win the 2010 Foxhunter Chase, 40 minutes after his Cotswoldsbased stable had landed the Gold Cup with Imperial Commander.
Back then, Twiston-Davies was an unpaid cavalier. Now he's the going-places jockey of the professional ranks, retained by the man -- the informal 'Nige' is his chosen form of address -- with the knack of nurturing bargain buys into champions.
"He's a great trainer, but he's an even better dad," he smiles. "That's the difference between Nige and every other trainer I ride for - he's always there and he's always got something positive to say."
The paternal hand brought comfort after Big Buck's had met with defeat -- his first in 19 races over hurdles in Britain -- on his comeback.
Attacking three flights from home, Big Buck's wearied into third up the hill, triggering a critical reponse. …