Nigel Twiston-Davies, with 17 winners at The Festival to his name, is particularly looking forward to the first day of the four-day meeting, Champion Day, Tuesday, March 14, when he has a strong hand.
He outlined his plans for The Festival 2017 today at a media stable visit to his thriving stables near Naunton in Gloucestershire today.
The trainer said: "We have just about totally decided to go for the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle (the opening race at 1.30pm) with Ballyandy. He cantered to the last in the Betfair Hurdle and quickened away nicely.
"We have always thought an awful lot of him and I cannot understand why he didn't do better in his first three races over hurdles, but he managed to handicap himself nicely.
"He is trying to go on to better things now. We checked everything including his wind - nothing was amiss.
"Maybe, with time, he has got better. He has got plenty of speed - he won at The Festival last year (Weatherbys Champion Bumper), again over two miles but no hurdles. I am really looking forward to that and hopefully we will be able to take our revenge on Moon Racer."
Flying Angel is entered in both the Racing Post Arkle Novices' Chase and the JLT Novices' Chase.
Twiston-Davies commented: "Flying Angel is one of the puzzles of the whole thing. He was very good at Warwick in the Kingmaker so what do we do? Should we take on the supposedly unbeatable Altior or do we go for what could be an easier task in the JLT?
"But you should not be frightened of one horse - we don't know and will probably be discussing it right up to the end."
The New One has long been a star at Grange Hill Farm and is set to run in the Stan James Champion Hurdle for the fourth time.
The nine-year-old did best in the two-mile hurdling championship when third in 2014 after being badly hampered early in the race. He is already a winner at The Festival, having won the Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle in 2013.
The trainer declared: "We have decided that The New One goes for the Champion Hurdle - we are all agreed on that. The race is not as hot it has been in the past - no Faugheen this year and if you look at the ratings - the handicapper as he tells us is always right - The New One should be right there at the finish.
"The New One is one of the top-rated - there is only a pound between him and Yanworth, who are the two top-rated horses in the race.
"Cheltenham brings the best out of him - he was only beaten eight lengths last year and the different tactics we are employing now should turn that around. I am very excited by him and looking forward to the day.
"This will be his fourth Champion Hurdle and he was very unlucky in his first one - hopefully this is the year that everything will fall right for him.
"He has had soundness issues in the past but we are happier than we have been for a long time. Since October, touch wood, he has not had an unsound step.
"He did not seem to be showing his age when he won the International Hurdle at Cheltenham - he seemed to sparkle that day. He has never liked Haydock but managed to win there. Back at his favourite course, he will be flying up the hill.
"We want to put right the unlucky bits we have had in the past - he was desperately unlucky in that first Champion Hurdle, being knocked back further than he was beaten.
"It would be absolutely wonderful if he won - he has been so brilliant for us over the years."
Calett Mad goes for the J T McNamara National Hunt Chase, also on the first day.
The trainer explained: "Calett Mad is a very nice horse. It was disappointing that he was beaten up at Wetherby but I think we can put that down to the soft ground.
"He was very impressive at Taunton on better ground on his previous start. Better ground - good to soft - should suit him on that first day. He is rated 148 and should be right there in the mix."
Foxtail Hill was nominated by Twiston-Davies as his best chance of The Festival in the concluding contest on Champion Day, the Close Brothers Novices' Handicap Chase.
He said: "Foxtail Hill was very impressive at Cheltenham at the end of January and he has managed to stay inside the rating band 0 to 140 for this race.
"The race is nearly a slightly lower class JLT - because all the runners will be within 3lb or 4lb of each other. I am very hopeful for him. He is quite keen but you can ride him in any way.
"He and Ballyandy are my two best Festival hopes.
"I am going to have a very busy first day."
The trainer plans to have plenty more runners over the other three days of The Festival, with Ballyoptic (Sun Bets Stayers' Hurdle), Bristol De Mai (Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup) and Wholestone (Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle) the pick of them.
Twiston-Davies remarked: "Ballyoptic was right upsides Unowhatimeanharry at Ascot when he fell and then was a bit disappointing at Cheltenham last time. He has had some time off and come back really well and strong. Let's hope he can do the business.
"He gallops and stays - the two falls he has had he slipped on landing.
"I think Bristol De Mai is very exciting in the Cheltenham Gold Cup - he was really good at Haydock. We can put a line through Newbury - he wasn't himself that day. When he got back here, he was very lame and something must have happened in the race.
"He had a whole week of lameness and not being right. He has come right as you saw today and if he can stay sound then very good. He seems 100 per cent now and I am very hopeful.
"He did not jump with his normal fluency and hung badly to his left at Newbury - he has not done anything like that before. Hopefully, he will be right back in the Gold Cup fray again.
"It is impossible to compare him with Imperial Commander. Bristol De Mai is very much a horse who goes his own pace - you don't tell him what to do. He will be right up there in the front line, though he is settling a lot better now.
"He stays and jumps and is uncomplicated. What we saw at Haydock was phenomenal. He has had a nice long break now and appears in great form. The ground is not a worry - it inconveniences others more than him if it is soft. He seems to go on anything and was second in the JLT Novices' Chase at The Festival last year.
"The stamina was a surprise - in his younger days, he was always very over-keen but now he settles - he will stay as long as you want. I think Bristol De Mai is very much under the radar now.
"Wholestone has done nothing wrong all season - winning three times at Cheltenham. He is not flashy by any means but gets done what has to be done. Three miles really suits and the ground is not a problem.
"He keeps pulling out that little bit extra - he deserves to be one of the favourites. I don't know what the Irish will bring over.
"The Colin Tizzard-trained favourite - West Approach - has been unlucky but we have beaten him twice already."
Regarding how well his team will do at The Festival, the trainer replied: "The whole world is about Cheltenham Festival winners so I would be very disappointed not to have a winner.
"As long as they all run well and come back, I would be happy really. There are quite a few you cannot rule out so with luck we will have quite a few winners but you would be very over-optimistic to say it will happen."
Nigel Twiston-Davies - Thursday, March 2, 2017
Grange Hill Farm, Naunton, Gloucestershire
Background - Nigel Twiston-Davies initially combined training as a permit-holder with his farming interests throughout the 1980s, having his first winner with Last Of The Foxes at Hereford in March, 1982, as a permit holder before the agricultural recession prompted him to make training his full-time profession.
He took out a full training licence in 1989, recording his first win as a public trainer in December of that year with Babil at Newbury. He has since gone on to register more than 1,800 successes.
Born on May 16, 1957, Twiston-Davies rode 17 winners as an amateur under Rules and gained a further 17 point-to-point victories, and served as assistant trainer to Richard Head and Fred Rimell.
A childhood neighbour and friend of Peter Scudamore, he went into partnership with the champion Jump jockey to set up stables at Grange Hill Farm, Guiting Power, Gloucestershire, although Scudamore is no longer involved in the venture and currently assists his partner Lucinda Russell. Since 2009, Twiston-Davies' business partner and assistant trainer is former stable jockey Carl Llewellyn.
Twiston-Davies adopted and developed the pioneering techniques of Martin Pipe, such as interval training and regular blood tests for his string, enabling him to rapidly raise his profile among the training ranks.
He is the only current trainer to have won the Grand National at Aintree more than once, saddling Earth Summit to victory in 1998 and Bindaree four years later.
The 2001/2002 campaign had been relatively quiet by Twiston-Davies' high standards before Bindaree provided him with his second Grand National success. Afterwards he revealed that he had been intending to give up training, but despite "having a bigger debt than Argentina" after buying out Scudamore, the Aintree victory made him have a change of heart.
His best season numerically was in 2010/11, when he saddled 97 winners. His string is in excellent form at the moment and he is on 88 for the current campaign. Sons Sam and William are both jockeys. Sam, 24, is stable jockey to champion Jump trainer Paul Nicholls and still rides regularly for his father, while 22-year-old William is back riding over obstacles after five seasons on the Flat.
Nigel Twiston-Davies' 17 winners at The Festival
1992 Tipping Tim Ultima Handicap Chase
1993 Gaelstrom Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle
1993 Young Hustler RSA Chase
1994 Arctic Kinsman Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle
1998 Upgrade JCB Triumph Hurdle
2000 Rubhahunish Pertemps Network Final
2004 Fundamentalist Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle
2008 Ballyfitz Pertemps Network Final
2009 Tricky Trickster J T McNamara National Hunt Chase
2009 Imperial Commander Ryanair Chase
2010 Imperial Commander Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup
2010 Baby Run St James's Place Foxhunter Chase
2010 Pigeon Island Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase
2013 The New One Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle
2013 Same Difference Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Handicap Chase
2016 Blaklion RSA Chase
2016 Ballyandy Weatherbys Champion Bumper
Nigel Twiston-Davies' entries at The Festival this year
CHAMPION DAY - TUESDAY, MARCH 14 (OLD COURSE)
1.30pm £125,000 Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m ½f
Ballyandy, Crievehill, Robinshill
2.10pm £175,000 Racing Post Arkle Novices' Chase (Grade 1) 2m
2.50pm £105,000 Ultima Handicap Chase (Grade 3) 3m 1f
Ballycross, Calett Mad, Kilronan High
3.30pm £400,000 Stan James Champion Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m ½f
The New One
4.10pm £110,000 OLBG Mares' Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m 4f
4.50pm £120,000 J T McNamara National Hunt Chase (Novices) (Amateurs) (Grade 2) 4m
Ballycross, Calett Mad
5.30pm £70,000 Close Brothers Novices' Handicap Chase (0-140) (Listed) 2m 4½f
Foxtail Hill, Templehills
LADIES DAY - WEDNESDAY, MARCH 15 (OLD COURSE & CROSS COUNTRY)
1.30pm £125,000 Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m 5f
Ballyandy, Crievehill, Robinshill
2.10pm £175,000 RSA Novices' Chase (Grade 1) 3m ½f
2.50pm £95,000 Coral Cup (Handicap Hurdle) (Grade 3) 2m 5f
3.30pm £350,000 Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase (Grade 1) 2m
4.10pm £65,000 Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase 3m 6f
4.50pm £80,000 Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3) 2m ½f
5.30pm £75,000 Weatherbys Champion Bumper (Grade 1) 2m ½f
ST PATRICK'S THURSDAY - THURSDAY, MARCH 16 (NEW COURSE)
1.30pm £150,000 JLT Novices' Chase (Grade 1) 2m 4f
2.10pm £95,000 Pertemps Network Final (Handicap Hurdle) (Listed) 3m
Arctic Gold, Ballymalin, Splash of Ginge
2.50pm £300,000 Ryanair Chase (Grade 1) 2m 5f
3.30pm £300,000 Sun Bets Stayers' Hurdle (Grade 1) 3m
Ballyoptic, The New One
4.10pm £105,000 Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate (Handicap Chase) (Grade 3) 2m 5f
Astracad, Ballybolley, Ballykan, Foxtail Hill, Templehills
4.50pm £80,000 Trull House Stud Mares Novices' Hurdle (Grade 2) 2m 1f
5.30pm £70,000 Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Handicap Chase (Amateurs) (0-145) 3m 2f
Astracad, Ballycross, Calett Mad
GOLD CUP DAY - FRIDAY, MARCH 17 (NEW COURSE)
1.30pm £125,000 JCB Triumph Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m 1f 125,000
Sir George Somers
2.10pm £95,000 Randox Health County Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3) 2m 1f
Ballyandy, Crievehill, Robinshill
2.50pm £125,000 Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle (Grade 1) 3m
3.30pm £575,000 Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase (Grade 1) 3m 2½f
Blaklion, Bristol De Mai
4.10pm £45,000 St James's Place Foxhunter Chase 3m 2½f
4.50pm £65,000 Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle (0-145) 2m 4½f
Ballybolley, Ballyhill, Crievehill, El Terremoto, Robinshill
5.30pm £105,000 Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Handicap Chase (Grade 3) 2m ½f