Now a championship challenge beckons after Tizzard's fine season
Off the back of a magical week at Punchestown, Colin Tizzard is eyeing up a challenge for the trainers’ championship in Britain, with battle lines for the new season starting Monday already being drawn.
At the beginning of last week, Tizzard had never saddled a winner in Ireland yet he arrived home at his Dorset yard on Saturday night having saddled three winners, two seconds and a third from seven runners at Punchestown, including Grade 1 success for Fox Norton.
“You don’t know what’s going to happen next in racing,” said Tizzard, taking breath after a whirlwind week.
“We always expected Fox Norton and Finian’s Oscar to run real big races and Sizing Codelco really, but Sizing Granite, who was on the list to be moved on, coming back and winning a handicap as easy as that is the beauty of training racehorses.”
He topped £2 million in prize-money
Aided by a loyal base of supporters and a new association with powerful owners Ann and Alan Potts, Tizzard has enjoyed a landmark season in Britain as he topped £2 million in prize-money for the first time and, with his stable gaining strength in numbers for the new campaign, he is not ruling out a challenge for a first trainers’ title.
“It’s something I never thought possible,” said Tizzard when quizzed on his title aspirations. “But luckily not just one owner of mine but quite a lot have been buying really nice horses in the last month and it’s definitely doable if they all have a clear run.
"We’ve got a few Grade 1 horses now and we’ve got a squeak I think. There’s no reason why we wouldn’t have another 20 to 30 horses and if everything materialises, we could have a chance.”
His one blip in an otherwise flawless season came when his horses were below par at the Cheltenham Festival in March and he believes a clear run this time can help him close the gap on Nicky Henderson and Paul Nicholls.
He added: “When you have a lot of success you’ve got to pay for it at some stage in the season and we paid for it from February to Cheltenham.
"They weren’t running very well but we still very nearly won the Champion Chase and were third in the Gold Cup, so it wasn’t all bad. Some performed terrible at Cheltenham, but they’ve all bounced back.
"It’s character-building at the least, but I was exhausted after Cheltenham. We definitely had a bug but thank God it went through so quickly.”
With £800,000 needed to bridge to champion trainer Nicky Henderson based on the final standings on Saturday, the £575,000 on offer in the Gold Cup is likely to be pivotal to his challenge.
While he already has Native River and Thistlecrack heading in that direction, Tizzard opened up the possibility of Fox Norton developing into a credible Gold Cup candidate too.
A head second in the Champion Chase at Cheltenham, Fox Norton landed the 2m4f Grade 1 Melling Chase at Aintree before dropping back to two miles to beat Un De Sceaux in the Champion Chase at Punchestown last Tuesday.
“Robbie Power said he was flat-out from start to finish at Punchestown but then he very nearly won a Champion Chase at Cheltenham,” pondered Tizzard.
“I think all roads are open and you couldn’t say he wouldn’t make a Gold Cup horse. He’s only seven and look what Sizing John has done this year. It’s something we’ll think about and let develop as the season goes on.”
Apple of his eye
Finian’s Oscar, who missed Cheltenham, failed by just a short-head to add Grade 1 success at Punchestown to his top-level win at Aintree but remains the apple of his trainer’s eye.
“He’s only five and I think we’ll have a lovely season novice chasing with him and have him for all the festivals in the spring,” said Tizzard. “He’s probably the best novice hurdler we’ve had; better than Cue Card at this stage. He’s got everything in front of him.”
Tizzard also had positive news on stricken star Thistlecrack, whose recovery from a tendon injury is going well.
He said: “We’ll probably scan him this week. We’re just being careful and just want to give it a bit of time. It won’t be before Christmas before he runs.”