Tizzards set sights on crown jewels with Native River and Thistlecrack
The Tizzards are eyeing a two-pronged attack on jump racing's triple crown, with reigning Gold Cup hero Native River and a rejuvenated Thistlecrack set for a first career clash in the Betfair Chase at Haydock.
A million-pound bonus has been offered by Jockey Club Racecourses for the last three seasons if a horse can win the Betfair Chase at Haydock on November 24, the King George at Kempton on Boxing Day and the Gold Cup at Cheltenham in March, and the Tizzard team are eyeing Haydock as a likely starting point for Native River, who has made a full recovery from a minor injury he encountered towards the end of last season.
The eight-year-old was absent from the first two legs of the jumps triple crown, sidestepping Haydock and Kempton for a lower grade assignment in Newbury's Denman Chase before his victory over Might Bite at the Cheltenham Festival five months ago.
Joe Tizzard, assistant and son to trainer Colin, said: "The main aim is to get him to the Gold Cup, last year we couldn't really run him much as he had an injury at the end of the season before.
"We will likely start him at Haydock for the Betfair Chase, and if he won that then we would be tempted to go for the million-pound bonus. We'd then have to think about going to Aintree or Punchestown.
"If you win at Haydock then it certainly has to come into the equation, there's a lot of time between the races so it is very doable – it's not easy though. We'll have to play it by ear but I would imagine he'll start back in the Betfair Chase."
Thistlecrack has been on a recovery mission since losing his unbeaten record to the ill-fated Many Clouds in the Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham 19 months ago.
The ten-year-old showed glimpses of his former self when fourth in the King George last time, a race he won in 2016, but he missed a Gold Cup clash with Native River after suffering a stress fracture in January.
The four-time Grade 1-winning hurdler has not been seen since finishing in midfield behind Might Bite at Kempton, and the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby on November 3 is a possible target.
Tizzard, speaking at the yard's annual charity open day, added: “Thistlecrack is a little bit older now so things have got to start to happen for him. We'll get him out early and get some runs into him, he'll start in the Charlie Hall first and then we'd have a look at the million-pound bonus."
“They have both been in lovely form since we've had them back. They had their summer breaks and both came in around the middle of June. They're going through the motions well.
“We couldn't be happier with them, especially Thistlecrack, he is fully over his little problems last season and we're now hoping to have a full and successful campaign with him.”
Native River is a general 8-1 chance to land back-to-back Gold Cups, while Thistlecrack is priced at 20-1.
Although it has been more than five months since Native River outpointed Might Bite at Cheltenham, his owners Anne and Garth Broom still enjoy watching the race.
The couple visited Colin Tizzard's Dorset yard for the annual bank holiday open day, where the general public got a chance to meet the stable stars and see the Gold Cup trophy – all proceeds were in aid of charities.
“Winning the Gold Cup was a little bit surreal, it was a dream come true and it takes some sinking in. Even now when we watch the DVD we suddenly think, 'This is the Gold Cup'. We have achieved our goals and if we could win it again it would be amazing.”
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