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As the media circus moved on it was a slightly different tone at the Colin Tizzard yard with the man himself coming over as a pretty laid-back individual – or is that all an act to keep us from asking awkward questions? With the stable favourite Thistlecrack out for the season (I saw him and he looks a picture but an easy time over the summer will see hopefully see him 100% for next season), but there is still a stable full of talent to work on from top to bottom. Fact is the Tizzards try to deal in quality more than quantity and are constantly looking to target all the big races with the correct horses which may mean their strike rate drops on occasions but that will happen when you are intent on taking on the crème de la crème of the National Hunt horses. Colin clearly loves his work and described Cheltenham as “one place I don’t get disappointed” – he is happy enough to have horses good enough to run and the chance to find out just how good they are at the biggest and best meeting of the year.
It seems the most sensible thing to do is to start with Cue Card, now a twelve year-old and very likely in his final season racing. He is still amazingly popular with the racing public who feel they know him so well after forty career starts and close to one and a half million pounds in win and place prize money. So far the Gold Cup has eluded him and this will surely be his last chance but there is a back up plan of an attack on the Ryanair Chase over shorter and it will be interesting to see where he ends up. To save me repeating myself throughout, Colin subscribes to the “keep the door open” principle of entering his horses for more than one of the big races then making a decision last minute once there is a better idea of the conditions and the opposition so any horses mentioned need to be considered for more than one race at Cheltenham as things stand. If you’re looking for Ryanair Chase Tips then ours are online now.
Native River is one of the exceptions to that rule with nothing other than a Gold Cup entry and his trainer does seem pretty sweet on his chances though with Cue Card also entered his trainer is clearly torn between the pair. Native River looks to have been laid out for the Festival with just the one winning run this season at Newbury which has been the plan after he finished third last year following a tough campaign. Colin told us that “He’s a lot stronger this time round, he’s in great form and we had him ready for Christmas. The manner of how he won at Newbury was equally as good as he has ever been”, which is high praise indeed. He has that rare combination of both speed and stamina, and at the prices you can certainly see why he continues to attract plenty of support. If you want to read our thoughts on Native River’s chances then take a look at our Gold Cup Tips.
Moving on and Finian’s Oscar has flattered to deceive so far and looked as if he was going backwards over fences after winning his first two at Chepstow and Cheltenham over two and a half miles or so. All was not well in the yard when he ran below expectations at Sandown and then Ascot in December, but they have re-laid the gallops since and the horses are showing better form now. He has, if I heard correctly, had a small palate operation since he was last seen and will almost certainly wear blinkers in his choice of the RSA Chase, the Stayers Hurdle, or the JLT Chase with Colin seemingly leaning towards the last named at this moment in time where he is expected to bounce back to form. If you’re looking for our JLT Novices’ Chase Tips you can find them online now.
Naturally, Colin is eager to talk about all of his possible runners but we need to be a little more selective than that, but he clearly thinks an awful lot of Elegant Escape who he likened to Native River which is high praise indeed. Another with more than one target at this early stage, he could run in the RSA Chase (more likely) or even the four mile National Hunt Chase for Amateur riders “if a top amateur came up”, but far more importantly he looks an absolute picture and there was no hiding just how much his trainer thinks of him. Whether he is good enough to win this year isn’t the point at this stage but suffice to say he is a good horse and one thing this yard do not do is rush their horses – whatever he does now there will most certainly be a lot more to come over the years ahead. See our RSA Chase Tips here.
Slate House may be a surprise addition to the list to some but not to his connections who have some pretty fancy plans for the son of top National Hunt sire Presenting. He will start off in the Supreme Novices Hurdle with the plan being to then go to Aintree and perhaps Punchestown as well which suggests they think a lot of him though winning one of them would be more than enough for most owners with his trainer saying “We want to win the big races so we will start at Cheltenham in the Supreme then we’ll go for Aintree and then see if he is still ready for Punchestown. He needs good spring ground”, so here’s hoping the rains stay away. Our Supreme Novices’ Hurdle Tips can be read now!
Two more to round things off from out of left field starting with Lostintranslation who will run in one of the novice events (sorry, but if Colin won’t be more specific neither can we). His trainers throw away words of “he will take a lot of beating he will” seemed to be missed by some who were waiting for words on the better known beasts, but I noticed and will be backing him each way accordingly once his target becomes clear at the final entry stage.
Last and most certainly not least we have Paddleyourowncanoe who remains on target for the Fred Winter and he can be backed at 20/1 at present. His trainer clearly likes him and reading between the lines (or guessing), I got the feeling he has been laid out for this race and he has already been added to my ante post portfolio now we can all bet “non-runner no bet” to avoid the risk of absentees. You can read our thoughts and Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle Tips by clicking the link.