Colin Tizzard is now a permanent fixture among the elite of National Hunt racing – a position he will be confident of maintaining this season given the talent at his disposal.
Success eluded Tizzard at the Cheltenham Festival for the second season running in March, but the campaign was anything but a failure as he celebrated a further three Grade One winners.
Arguably the pick of those triumphs at the top table was the victory of Lostinstranslation in the Betfair Chase at Haydock, and with the eight-year-old ending his campaign with a fine third in the Cheltenham Gold Cup more of the same is expected this term.
Tizzard’s son and assistant Joe is a key part of the operation and said: “He had a hell of a season. Although we thought he was more than capable of doing it he had to step forward.
“At Carlisle he was just showing off and it was a performance to enjoy, then at Haydock he did what we thought he would and ticked the boxes of staying three miles well and proving that he could battle.
“We thought he was better going into Kempton (King George VI Chase) and he came out of it not quite right so we gave him a slight wind op which we had been talking about. It wasn’t the track and we will probably go back there this year.
“In the Gold Cup run he travelled better than anything, jumping the last upsides, so what more could you want. If we have a clear run with him he has a huge chance in it this season as he would only need to improve a little bit.
“The Gold Cup is what he will be aimed for and his first run this year will be in the Betfair Chase.”
Although injury prevented 2018 Gold Cup hero Native River from a fourth outing in the race at this year’s Festival, the 10-year-old is back in training and is being aimed at a repeat success in the Many Clouds Chase at Aintree on his return.
Tizzard said: “He is back in and he will probably be aimed at the Many Clouds Chase at Aintree he won last year.
“Whether Garth and Anne (Broom, owners) would be persuaded to give him a spin in the Grand National, I’m not sure, but I’m sure they will aim him at the Gold Cup first.
“He doesn’t owe us anything and he is still capable of winning a big one.”
Though the Tizzards are known for producing talented staying chasers, victory in the Randox Health Grand National is something that has so far eluded them. In Elegant Escape they could have the ideal contender to change that statistic.
Tizzard said: “Elegant Escape is already a Welsh National winner and we know he stays and jumps well so he is going to have a crack at a Grand National this season.
“We will probably go to the Becher Chase to give him a spin over the fences as Jon (Romans, owner) would like him to tick that box first, but he could have an outing over hurdles first.
“We will almost certainly skip Cheltenham this season for Aintree.”
If there is one division the Tizzards look strong in this season it is novice chases, headed by last season’s Tolworth Hurdle winner Fiddlerontheroof who will make his debut over fences in the Listed Dunraven Windows Novices’ Chase at Chepstow on Saturday.
“We schooled him over fences for the first time last month and he jumped beautifully but he should do as he has already run in three point-to-points,” said Tizzard.
“What he was doing over hurdles was a bonus and it was great to see him dot up the way he did in the Tolworth. He was always going to be a chaser and hopefully he will be better again.
“He is as good as any of those good novices we’ve had going over fences. He has had a proper summer break and has come back in big and strong. I think two and a half miles will be his trip and I can see him ending up in a JLT. “
Equally as exciting is stablemate The Big Breakaway, who was last sighted finishing fourth in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle behind the unbeaten Envoi Allen.
Tizzard said: “He has schooled well and is a really natural jumper. He looked to me like he wanted a trip at Cheltenham in the Ballymore as he was kind of flat out all the way.
“He is a big, long-striding horse and he will probably start over two and a half over a big galloping track. He doesn’t show a lack of pace at home and he is not slow.
“He is probably the most exciting horse we have got going forward and the sky is the limit with him at this stage as a five-year-old.”
Copperhead went from strength to strength last season before coming to grief in the RSA Novices’ Chase, but hopes are high the talented six-year-old can resume his progression.
“He was a really progressive horse last season and ended up winning the Reynoldstown at Ascot,” said Tizzard.
“He wasn’t necessarily running his race at Cheltenham then he had a nasty fall. He has been schooled since and that hasn’t had an adverse effect on him.
“He is a good jumper and a horse that should be well suited to a Ladbrokes Trophy and the Welsh Grand National as he jumps and stays well.
“I think one day he could be a National horse, but if he wins a Ladbrokes Trophy he nearly puts himself in Gold Cup territory.”
An attempt to turn Elixir De Nutz into a Champion Hurdle candidate failed to go to plan last season, so the Tizzards will be looking to enjoy better fortunes with Grade Two winner Master Debonair.
“We want to see if he is good enough for a Champion Hurdle so the Elite Hurdle will be his first start and then we’ll look at something over Christmas,” said Tizzard jnr.
“There is no reason why he shouldn’t progress with age and if he does that puts him in the shake up. He has acted round Cheltenham before.
“He is a staying two-miler as well which is what you need in a Champion Hurdle.”