Joe Tizzard gives the lowdown on Cheltenham running plans
We just ran out of time with Finian’s Oscar
Finian’s Oscar has been a bit sore-footed for the last couple of days. We’ve had the Vet in and the Farrier and we’ve tried to release it but we’ve just run out of time, it’s as simple as that.
If this was a week ago then it wouldn’t have been a problem at all. It’s just one of those little things that you pray aren’t going to happen as you approach a big race. It’s not major thankfully but he’s a young horse that we won’t be taking any chances with. He could well be sound by Wednesday but we’ve run out of time.
Everyone in the yard is so looking forward to Cheltenham. We can’t wait. We wish it was starting tomorrow. The horses are in great form. They’ve ticked all the boxes, done their last pieces of work, they’ve all been schooled. We schooled twenty four horses on Tuesday, they all schooled brilliantly and by half past nine it was done. Dad and I then looked at each other and said “we wished the Festival was starting the next day.” And Finian’s Oscar was one of the ones that had schooled so that’s what you worry about. So we just can’t wait to get going. We just have to keep our fingers crossed for two more days and then we are off and running.
We’ve gone into Cheltenham Festivals with big chances before, like last year with Cue Card in the Gold Cup and Thistlecrack in the World Hurdle, so the difference this year is just the numbers we are dealing with. We have sorted all the plans in terms of travelling all the horses up, and things like that, so we are well organised. If you’d said at the start of the season that we would have twenty horses heading to Cheltenham with a chance we would have snapped your hand off. So we are really excited about it. We just want to get on with it.
Supreme Novices Hurdle
Pingshou is going to run in the Supreme. Alan Potts is keen to have runners at the Festival and this horse has won around Cheltenham even though he has a bit to find on all known form. Stranger things have happened though. He’s a nice young horse and he is still improving but on form he has something to find. But if he goes and finishes in the first half dozen then we’d take that as it would be a positive sign for next season. He’d then get turned away and be a lovely novice chaser next year.
Ultima Handicap Chase
Theatre Guide is going to run in the Ultima. He was only beaten three lengths at Kempton last time off a stone heavier than he’d won the race a year ago. So he will be competitive off this mark. Is he good enough to win a Gold Cup? Probably not, as he’d have had to find about a stone so it makes sense to run him in the Ultima. He proved he liked Cheltenham with his win a couple of runs back, and he seems in lovely form.
Viconte Du Noyer will also run. He’s in as good a form as he was when he won around Cheltenham last autumn. He schooled really well and he really is in good shape. We had entered him for lots of races but we think the three miles is perfect for him. It’s a massively competitive race but he’s got a good chance in it.
Close Brothers Novice Handicap
Sizing Tennessee will be our runner in the novice handicap chase and he’ll have blinkers on for the first time. He gets into the race which is the main thing, and he had some good form in the autumn. His coat has come through lovely. It’s a competitive race but he deserves his place in it.
We couldn’t be happier with Royal Vacation. He schooled on Tuesday without the blinkers on but we will pop the blinkers back on for the race. He’s an improving horse. He needs to step up again I think but he is a Grade 1 winner and he jumps and he gallops and he’s proved he likes the track.
Morello Royale gets in the Coral Cup so we run there. It was a lovely run last time at Newbury when second to Tobefair. I’m not convinced that she isn’t better on a flat track but she has earned her place and the form from Newbury looks strong so she’ll take her chance.
Queen Mother Champion Chase
I think Fox Norton will more than likely run in the Champion Chase. He schooled beautifully on Tuesday. He was a bit stiff after Newbury but he was entitled to be given the injury he’d picked up at Cheltenham the time before. He’ll take his chance in the Champion Chase. If it’s still Good to Soft that should be fine. I think he’ll have a better chance the slower the ground, rather than top of the ground. He deserves to take his chance in this and is a worthy second favourite. Take Douvan out and it’s a very open race.
Sizing Granite will run in either this race or the Ryanair. At the back of my mind I’m thinking he might just be an Aintree horse rather than a Cheltenham horse. He won a Grade 1 around Aintree. He’s just coming to hand at home. When the Alan and Anne Potts’ horses arrived Sizing Granite was the horse that came with the biggest reputation, but he didn’t look like it on the gallops at all. He’s had a win op and his coat is just coming right, but I have a sneaky feeling Aintree might suit him better. We can now see at home why he was a Grade 1 winner.
Cross Country Chase
Third Intention is going to have a spin in the Cross Country Chase. He hasn’t come up the hill on the last couple of occasions but we know he enjoys going round the course. Some quicker ground will suit him. The Topham at Aintree will be the target after that.
Alary is going to run in the Ryanair. We just want to get the experience into him. We still believe he’s a horse with a lot of potential. He’s schooled really well since his fall at Exeter. He just has to learn how to race at the tempo of British races. He’s rated 162 so where else do you go with him? So we’ll run here.
The owners are very keen on running West Approach in the Stayers Hurdle and we can’t really find a good argument not to in all honesty. He’s finished really close to Unowhatimeanharry on a couple of occasions and this is the race the owners want to run in, so that’s what we will do.
Last time at Cheltenham he caught Ruby by surprise as we thought he was going to be keen, he was keen to post, he’d been keen in previous starts, but then he didn’t pick the bridle up from the start and settled almost too well. All season we have been taking him to these decent races to try and teach him to be a racehorse, and he’s become one now. In an ideal world we’ll sit fourth or fifth and will be given a pretty normal ride and take it from there. Tom Scudamore will ride.
Brown Advisory Plate
I’m still very keen on Sizing Codelco for this race. He’s rated 140 and he definitely gets a run. His Ascot form with Top Notch looks very strong now. We like him. He gets in off 10st 4lbs and he’s one of our biggest chances of the week. He’s in good nick. His coat has come through lovely and he schooled really well. He has a great chance.
Mares Novices’ Hurdle
On Demand has a lot to find in this but she was a cheap horse who has earned the right to give her owners a great day out. She gets a run, she loves blitzing out in front and she jumps really well so you never know. Stranger things have happened. If she finished in the first half a dozen we’d be delighted and she’ll go chasing next season. We ran her six times in five weeks during the Autumn and she’s improved to 124. Three of our winners at Cheltenham have been 40/1 and she’s only 50/1 so we’ll have a go.
Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle
Elegant Escape has earned himself a run in this. Tom Scudamore will ride. He is a lovely horse. He’s two years behind West Approach effectively and they are at the same level of competition, even though West Approach will run in the Stayers. I think the step up to three miles will definitely suit him and he could surprise. He’s a horse for the future when he goes chasing.
Cheltenham Gold Cup
Both Native River and Cue Card schooled on Tuesday. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Cue Card school so well it was like he was on springs. Native River was really good too. I rode Native River myself this morning and he felt superb. There is not much between them. They’ve both had beautiful prep runs and they are going into the Gold Cup in their best form, I’m sure of it. All we need now is a bit of luck and what will be will be.
I know there’s this stat about how long it’s been since an 11 year old has won the Gold Cup but we look at Cue Card every morning and try to think he’s an eleven year old, and we can’t see one bit of difference between now and how he was four years ago. He is every bit as enthusiastic. His form is every bit as good this season as it has been in previous seasons. Probably his best ever run was at Aintree last year. On that form you’d say he’ll go very close in the Gold Cup. He doesn’t show us any signs at all that he is ageing and he will bring the house down if he wins.
I’m not biased though and I’m sitting on the fence as I don’t think there’s a great deal between Native River and Cue Card. If they jump the last upsides that would be fantastic and I’ll just be shouting them both on. I’ll take a 1-2 either way round.
We could have four runners in the Grand Annual. Mick Thonic will run in this as we are not sure he will get the two and a half miles in the novice handicap chase. He has ability he’s just a bit of a weak finisher. He’s had a win operation and he wants very good ground. We thought Quite By Chance was at the top of his handicap and he then came out and put up a career best at Ascot and has been very consistent all season.
Sizing Platinum would probably be our best chance in this race. His form behind Fox Norton looks strong. He would have won at Ludlow last time off this same mark but unfortunately fell four out. He really wants good ground, so if it comes up good then a strongly run two miles on that ground will suit him perfectly. He has a big chance. He’s been saved for this since Ludlow.
Ultragold possibly wants a flat track but he won on Hennessy day at Newbury and he gets a run so the owners are more than entitled to run here.
As we have all season we will be using Aidan Coleman and Tom O’Brien on quite a few of the Potts’ horses, Tom Scudamore will ride a few and Dickie Johnson is on Native River and Paddy Brennan on Cue Card.
We just can’t wait