Joe Tizzard tells the story of the day they won the Gold Cup
It had been a long, hard week.
The horses had run well but they had still been put firmly in their places. They hadn’t been good enough. So we came back to Cheltenham on Friday morning still well aware that Native River was one of our best chances of the week but at the same time there was no way we were going to fall into that trap of thinking he would win, as we didn’t want to end up disappointed.
We’d had to hold our nerve with the horse as he’d been a bit lame
As we approached the start of the Albert Bartlett I decided to go back to the car to change my coat as it had just turned a bit cold.
I was walking back from the car watching the race on the big screen from a distance, when suddenly as the horses reached the top of the hill I thought “hang on a minute, Kilbricken Storm seems to be going a bit well” and I stood and watched him win the race completely on my own.
It was a massive result for us. We’d had to hold our nerve with the horse as he’d been a bit lame with puss in his foot at the beginning of the week. It wasn’t anything serious, but we had to keep calm about it, and it all worked out fine. More than fine in fact; we’d got a Cheltenham Festival winner on the board for the week and in some style too.
It was a brilliant result for Harry Cobden. He’s a good boy, he turns up every Wednesday at the yard, and he’s ridden a lot of winners for us this season. It was his first Cheltenham Festival winner and he gave the horse a really sensible ride, as Fabulous Saga had gone off fast in front and he could easily have chased him too hard, and then on the other side of the coin he was the first horse to chase down the leader and got first run on the others, so he got it dead right.
Longer term we think Kilbricken Storm will handle a bit better ground. He’s really progressed well all through the season. His only disappointing run was at Newbury in the Challow when we probably ran him back too quick, and it was also when our horses weren’t right. He stays well, he jumps well, and he’s already run in point to points. So he’s an exciting horse for the future.
Dickie didn’t need telling what to do and we just wanted to keep it simple
After the initial celebrations, Kim and I went and saddled Native River while Dad was doing all the interviews and the presentation duties, and we then all regrouped in the parade ring ahead of the Gold Cup.
At that stage I was pretty relaxed. We had done everything we could do, and it was now out of our hands. We spoke to Dickie but he didn’t need telling what to do. We just ensured we were all on the same wavelength, and we all just wanted to keep it really simple.
It all then happened very quickly. I stayed with my partner Rachel and my nephew Freddie in the parade ring, while my sister Kim went with Native River’s groom Richard Young to the bottom of the chute. Dad went to the stands to watch it with Native River’s owners Garth and Ann Broom, and my Mum was still drinking champagne in the winners’ hospitality room after Kilbricken Storm’s win and so she watched the race there.
So we all watched the race in different places. We weren’t in our usual spots by any means.
“He’s going to run a blinder here and finish second”
Watching the race I was amazed at how well the front two (Native River and Might Bite) were going compared to the rest. But I could tell Dickie wasn’t having to ask the horse to go that pace, he was doing it comfortably.
Then on the second circuit I started to watch more intently, willing him not to miss out a fence, and to keep up the gallop.
From the top of the hill I could tell that Might Bite was travelling better than us and I can remember myself thinking “Well he’s going to run a blinder here and finish second”. I was still thinking that when they came off the bend into the straight.
Both horses then winged the last two fences and it wasn’t until after the last that Native River started to pull away and Might Bite started to falter, and only then did I realise we were going to win it.
And then it was just madness.
Then I just remember that incredible Gold Cup roar
I can’t remember what I was thinking at that moment. It was just a blur. It seemed to take an eternity for everyone to get there. I just wanted to see Dad, and Mum and Kim, and Garth and Ann, and celebrate with them.
You can hear that the winning horse is coming, well before you even see it, as the crowd start cheering and shouting wildly. Then I just remember that incredible Gold Cup roar deafening us from everywhere around the winners enclosure. Well we all made sure we were there for that. We wanted to savour every moment.
Dickie jumped off and gave us a proper debrief
When Dickie jumped off he gave us a proper debrief. He ran through the race, and said that he didn’t think at any stage he was going too fast on him.
He was really happy on the first circuit and he could see that the right horse was sitting behind him all the time.
He said that he knew Native River wouldn’t stop on the run for home, and he threw everything at him in the straight, and then his toughness and his stamina kicked in.
Kim and I missed the presentation as we had to go and saddle Grand Vision for the next race.
ITV Racing then got all of us up on their presentation podium, my Dad and I and Freddie my nephew, to be interviewed by Ed Chamberlin. Dad then called Kim up to come and join us too. It’s a big team effort and so much hard work has gone into it, so Dad was keen for us all to be a part of it.
Grand Vision then ran well in the Foxhunter, but in all honesty his race was a bit of a blur. I was watching it, but so many people were still coming up and congratulating us, so I ended up only watching it out of the corner of my eye.
Everyone was sipping champagne from the Gold Cup
It was an amazing day and from then on it turned into the most incredible party.
We based ourselves in the Owners and Trainers marquee, and everybody just came to us. We really enjoyed ourselves and it’s important that you do on days like these, as so much hard work goes into training the horses that when you have great days you need to really make the most of them.
We were there for a few hours, and the champagne flowed, and so many friends and also lots of people we didn’t know came up to congratulate us. Everyone was sipping champagne from the Gold Cup, and taking photos and videos.
Then when we left and started on the two hour journey home it gave us time to calm down and read all the text messages from well-wishers.
But then when we arrived back at the local pub at half 10, it all kicked off again, with all our staff and friends waiting for us there, and cheering and singing as we walked in the door. It was absolutely brilliant. Later on I realised how exhausted I was having used up so much mental energy, particularly as it had been a long week anyway.
People have said that they think it was one of the best Gold Cups ever
We then left the pub and went home and watched the race over and over again.
There’s no question Dickie gave the horse an incredible ride. He could have kicked for home much earlier, with Might Bite travelling so well just behind him, but he didn’t and that’s all down to his experience and how well he knows the horse. He held his nerve and didn’t panic. He just got the fractions so perfect and the horse jumped beautifully.
You can’t take anything away from Might Bite either. He ran a fantastic race. A lot of people have told me since that they think it was one of the best Gold Cups they had ever seen. These are two very good horses. It was only in the last furlong that one of them broke.
What I love about it too was the fact there wasn’t any bad luck or misfortune involved. Both horses jumped well and they winged the last two fences, and in the end the better horse won on the day.
It was amazing to see so many people turning out to celebrate his win
The next day we made sure all 95 horses were ridden out by 9am because we wanted all the staff to come up to the Pub.
Sophia Dale from Cheltenham had organised all the media to be at the pub, the Virginia Ash, for 10.30am. So we took Native River up to the Pub car park and paraded him up and down, and did all the interviews.
It was absolutely amazing to see so many people turning out to see the horse and celebrate the win. They all had Cue Card or Native River scarves on. It was really lovely. We then all went inside and the Pub was absolutely packed, and we celebrated. We loved every second.
Finally I just want to give a special mention to Native River’s owners, Garth and Ann Broom. They have been with us for what must be ten years and have been huge backers of us over that time. I’m so chuffed for them as they’ve put so much into the game. They really deserve it.
We probably won’t run again this season although that’s still to be discussed. The Gold Cup takes a lot out of horses, regardless of how well they win it.
It’s a hard race for sure, but it’s also the biggest race of them all, and we’ve gone and won it.