Oscar auditions to be next star to emerge from Tizzard academy
32Red Tolworth Novices' Hurdle (Grade 1) | 1m7f216y, 5yo+ | ITV4/RUK
Colin Tizzard will continue his attempt to loosen Paul Nicholls's grip on the jumps trainers' title as he goes head-to-head with the champion in the Tolworth Hurdle, a race Nicholls briefly made his own.
Unable to match Nicholls, who hit 100 for the season before New Year's Day, for sheer numbers of winners, Tizzard's success in the top races has got him to second place and £200,000 off his West Country neighbour.
He relies on Finian's Oscar not only to provide the stable with its 11th pattern win of the campaign but also give him another leading Cheltenham Festival candidate, alongside Thistlecrack, Cue Card and Native River, in a race that has implications on the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle.
Finian's Oscar, a £250,000 purchase, was already billed as Tizzard's most exciting young prospect before he made an impressive debut at Hereford last month which has earned him a meeting with Capitaine, one of Nicholls's big hopes for the future.
Capitaine atoned for defeat at Haydock by making all to win the Grade 2 Kennel Gate Hurdle at Ascot.
Paul Nicholls won the Tolworth three years in a row between 2006 and 2008 and has four victories all told. None of his opponents have previously won the race.
Gone but not forgotten
Harry Whittington says he will never be able to replace the late Arzal, who delivered the trainer a first Grade 1 success in last season's Manifesto Novices' Chase at Aintree, but Charlemar was bought by the same owners, the Hennessy Six, following his death.
Celestial Path was a Listed winner on the Flat who finished fifth in the 2,000 Guineas won by Gleneagles in 2015.
What they say
Harry Derham, assistant to Paul Nicholls, trainer of Capitaine
We think a lot of him and expect a bold show. He needs a strong gallop; it was muddling when he was beaten at Haydock and that didn't suit him at all. He's a strong, powerful galloper so we won't be letting it become tactical.
David Pipe, trainer of Celestial Path
I've been pleased with him at home. The two factors are soft ground and two miles. He's not bred to stay but has been nice and relaxed at home. It's a fact-finding mission.
Harry Fry, trainer of Chalonnial
We've always liked him but it's a big step up in grade. We felt on balance, with only six runners, it was worth letting him take his chance. Win, lose or draw, as long as he comes home safely we'll look forward to the rest of the season with him.
Harry Whittington, trainer of Charlemar
He's surprised me in winning his two novices as some of his work can be quite moderate. He was really impressive at Aintree. He's a horse that is better on the track than at home so it's difficult to know how good he is. He's entitled to go up to this level.
Colin Tizzard, trainer of Finian's Oscar
Many people may think this is a big jump up the ladder after only winning at Hereford, but he did take part in a schooling hurdle after winning his point-to-point in Ireland so we think he has the experience. He's a good horse and we'll find out more about him in this better race.
Fergal O'Brien, trainer of Global Stage
He ran very well in his bumper at Haydock and has solid point-to-point form. I've declared him at Chepstow as well on Sunday. The more rain they have at Sandown the more likely he is to run.