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Racing: Sam Twiston-Davies banks on making a fast Buck

A wise man once said that "money can't buy you happiness but it can make misery very bearable".

Big Buck's came third at Cheltenham in January, but Sam Twiston-Davies was content           Photograph: PA
Big Buck's came third at Cheltenham in January, but Sam Twiston-Davies was content Photograph: PA

Four years ago Sam Twiston-Davies experienced an amazing moment that no amount of money could buy but which brought him no financial riches.

The 17-year-old, on a day off from school, had just won the Foxhunter Chase at the Cheltenham Festival on Baby Run, trained by his father, Nigel. It capped an unforgettable day coming just 40 minutes after stable star Imperial Commander had won the Gold Cup as part of a treble for the trainer. The only problem was that, as an amateur, the tyro jockey did not make a cent.

This week Twiston-Davies, now one of the rising stars of the professional game, is allowed to chase the big bucks. But on Friday he hopes that the rest of the field will be chasing him when he rides Big Buck's in the Ladbrokes World Hurdle.

"Even now I wouldn't look at the cheque I get at the end of the month because I'm doing something I love," he said. "But it's a nice bonus."

The ride on Big Buck's only became available when Daryl Jacob, who replaced Ruby Walsh as main jockey for the Paul Nicholls yard this season, turned it down, feeling that he might be in a no-win situation with a horse who would be trying to win the World Hurdle for a fifth time, but coming back after more than a year off through injury.

Walsh and Tony McCoy had other commitments but fourth choice was good enough for Twiston-Davies, who has been picking up some useful spare rides from Nicholls this season.

"I couldn't care less - just delighted to take the ride," he said with a broad grin. "I'd ridden against him a few times but I never got that close to him. In fact I was always miles behind."

Big Buck's finished behind both Knockara Beau and At Fishers Cross in the Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham in January. That defeat broke the horse's 18-race winning run over hurdles and brought some hefty criticism for Twiston-Davies for hitting the front too soon and then being caught on the run-in from the last.

However, the jockey did not see it as the end of the world but more a means to an end. "I wouldn't do anything differently," he said firmly. "I was doing exactly what I was told to do by Paul. The horse took me to the front because he was comfortable in doing so. He just got tired from the last as you'd expect after a long lay-off. But the signals he sent through the reins were magical. He's still got it, and will be better this time, but I didn't want to lose the World Hurdle that day. I got all this abuse but the three things I wanted happy were the horse, the owner and the trainer."

Keeping the trainer of The New One happy comes with the added dimension of him being the jockey's father.

The Stan James Champion Hurdle appears to be one of the most open renewals for years with The New One, winner of the Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle last year, one of a clutch of pretenders to the crown that Hurricane Fly will be laying on the line come Tuesday. "We could finish fifth and run an absolute blinder," Twiston-Davies said. "But I wouldn't swap him for anything else."

Twiston-Davies senior has gone on record as saying that victory would top everything that had gone before because "the boy is riding". The son is equally keen to rise to the occasion saying that "when we achieve things together it's really special because he's your Dad".

That last word is a relatively new one for the public lexicon, with Twiston-Davies normally referring to his father as "Nige".

"When we went racing with him as kids if we called out 'Dad' he might not notice, because there were other kids there but if we called him 'Nige' he turned round so it stuck. But now I've tried to say Dad a bit more because you've only got the one and he's a great one. He's brought me up, looked after me, fed me several hundred meals and this is paying him back."

Payback comes in other forms with Twiston-Davies now a part-ner in his father's business. "My riding fees and prize money goes into the business to help with the yard and I get a percentage back," he said.

That includes the winning percentage on outside rides. The World Hurdle cheque is around £150,000, which could make life just a bit more bearable.

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