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Cheekpieces and wind op could transform Finian's Oscar at Cheltenham Festival

Finian's Oscar: will wear cheekpieces at Cheltenham
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Colin Tizzard reckons punters will see a different horse when last season's dual Grade 1-winning hurdler Finian's Oscar returns to action in next Thursday's JLT Novices' Chase, equipped with cheekpieces for the first time and with the benefit of a wind operation.

Finian's Oscar won his first two starts over fences but then suffered two defeats before being pulled up when returned to hurdles in heavy ground at Cheltenham in January, when wearing a first-time tongue-tie.

However, Tizzard is optimistic about his chance in next week's Grade 1, for which the six-year-old is a best-priced 9-1 chance with Ladbrokes and Coral.

Speaking at Fontwell on Wednesday, Tizzard said: "We schooled him in cheekpieces this morning and he jumped beautifully. We'd have done it last week but we were snowed in.

"He's had his palate cauterised too, and we'll be declaring that next week. It needed doing as he made a noise at Cheltenham."

He added: "We might've been doing him a disservice, though, because when he ran his poorest races we weren't going very well, whereas he looks fantastic now. He's fit and gleaming and wouldn't break sweat. We're in better form too, so he could be a better horse now for all sorts of reasons.

"We've done everything we can and in his last race over fences at Ascot he was giving quite a bit of weight to Gary Moore's horse Benatar, and was only just beaten."

No call for Murphy

While Tizzard will be seeking to add to his five winners at the Cheltenham Festival, Olly Murphy is chasing a first but will do so without Hunters Call.

He said: "I suppose I’ll look at the Irish festivals and maybe the Scottish Champion Hurdle. It’s one of those stupid things that he’ll come sound in the next two or three days and it’s only a bruised foot but you can’t go to these festivals unless you're 100 per cent.

"I’ve never been as gutted in my life but that’s the way it goes. He put my name on the map this year and doesn’t owe me anything. It’s such a shame it happened at this time."

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We schooled him in cheekpieces this morning and he jumped beautifully
E.W. Terms