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Tizzards hoping Breakaway has big chance against Monkfish

Joe Tizzard is confident The Big Breakaway has the potential to beat the best at this year’s Cheltenham Festival – and many more to come.

Assistant trainer Tizzard admits he may be biased because it was he who first spotted the strapping chestnut at the Goffs Punchestown sales almost two years ago, and helped to persuade a consortium of owners to buy him.

The Big Breakaway has already repaid some of the £360,000 purchase price, with three victories in his five starts for Joe and his father Colin’s Dorset yard.

But Tizzard hopes those successes are merely early staging posts to Festival glories – whether in this month’s Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase, against mighty Irish favourite Monkfish, or in future years.

The Big Breakaway goes through his paces
The Big Breakaway goes through his paces (David Davies/PA)

“He’s a massively talented horse who’s going to win or be competitive in these big events,” said Tizzard, who senses The Big Breakaway may have learned enough in his near four-length defeat as a Grade One runner-up at Kempton on Boxing Day to put his experience into telling practice at Cheltenham.

“When we went to the Kauto Star (Novices’ Chase), we had to drop him in and go back to basics,” he added.

“Dan’s horse (Shan Blue for the Skelton yard) jumped and galloped and got a march on him, and his jumping got found out over the last four or five fences.

“But I also think that Kempton run was what we were looking to do – and we hope that was the making of the horse. He learned more there, and this time we can ride him without making the running, third or fourth, and Cheltenham will suit him better anyway.

“The initial reaction from Kempton was Robbie (Power) came in and was delighted with the horse and said ‘that is what we needed last time’.”

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The “last time” was when The Big Breakaway, already successful on his chasing debut at Cheltenham in November, had dropped back in trip to under two and a half miles at Exeter and suffered a chastening defeat as a long odds-on favourite.

After Kempton, the hope was for more “match practice” at either Wetherby or Ascot – but first the weather intervened, and then time narrowly ran out.

“We were declared to go up to Wetherby for the Towton and we lost that (to waterlogging),” Tizzard added.

“Then we had him in the Reynoldstown and we very nearly did it – but we were just mindful that he knew he’d had a race at Kempton, so we didn’t want to run (again) three weeks before the Festival and give him too hard a race.

“It was literally down to the wire whether we ran in the Reynoldstown, and we decided just to save a bit of petrol for Cheltenham.

“Will that backfire? Who knows? We’ve done plenty of schooling with him at home – but you can’t beat match practice.

“We hope the Kempton run just taught him more than he perhaps ever learned throughout his career.

“He’s not the finished article yet, so Kempton just tucked him up a little bit and made him a bit light. So we were just wary we didn’t want to do that three weeks before the Festival.”

Tizzard has no doubts about the six-year-old’s ability, long term.

“I don’t think he’s done an awful lot wrong,” he added.

“In the back of our minds, we were quite keen to get some race experience into him. We felt like we wanted to get to Cheltenham with three or four runs under our belts.

“Then next year, we’ll have the experience – because he’s going to be in the big league next year, whatever happens.

“So we went to Exeter, and it backfired. He was left to make all his own running, and he completely dossed along and got outsprinted from the last.

“(But) he’s already won a chase round Cheltenham; he’s been second in a Grade One over fences. He’s a horse who’s maturing all the time, and I’m sure his time will come.”

Colin Tizzard with Lostintranslation (left), Native River (centre) and The Big Breakaway
Colin Tizzard with Lostintranslation (left), Native River (centre) and The Big Breakaway (David Davies/PA)

When it does, there will be extra satisfaction for the man who first picked him out to recruit.

“We arrived at Punchestown, and fell in love with the horse straight away – but didn’t think for a second we’d be in a position to buy it,” said Tizzard.

“But myself and John Romans – a big supporter of the yard and good mate of mine – had 15 pints of Guinness, and managed to pick up the courage to do the deal!

“Well, not strictly like that, but we managed to get three of them together and got the horse bought.

“There’s no pressure on me. The horse has already proven he’s got ability. (But) it’s just nice, when I help persuade owners to spend a lot of money, that they get their rewards.

“I’d be absolutely delighted for them. They’re already chuffed to bits – this horse has got a big future, he’s only young, and he will have his day at some stage.”

Monkfish will be a formidable Cheltenham opponent
Monkfish will be a formidable Cheltenham opponent (PA)

The Big Breakaway will be joined by stablemate Fiddlerontheroof, a Grade One-winning hurdler and successful chaser too, in the three-mile novice championship.

Although very respectful of the opposition, Tizzard is optimistic about his yard’s twin challenge.

He said: “Monkfish has looked amazingly impressive, hasn’t he? But we’re at Cheltenham, so it’s not expected to be easy.

“I’m a bit biased, because I bought The Big Breakaway – but I think he’s a hugely talented horse.

“I know he’s in a competitive division. But we think an awful lot of him, and I’d be wary of (anyone) writing him off too soon.”

Golan Fortune seeking to book National ticket with big Warwick effort

Golan Fortune will attempt to enhance his Randox Health Grand National prospects by claiming victory in the McCoy Contractors Civils And Infrastructure Hampton Novices’ Chase at Warwick on Saturday.

The seven-year-old bids to resume his progression over fences in the three-mile Grade Two prize – and move a step closer to giving trainer Phil Middleton his first runner in the Aintree spectacular.

Having made a winning debut over fences at Ludlow last month, Golan Fortune out-ran his 40-1 price tag upped to Grade One level when finishing fourth in the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day.

Middleton said: “If he does run a big race I would like to go for the Grand National.

“He is off 142 at the moment and you need to be about 145 to get in, so hopefully the handicapper would put him up a few pounds if he goes well.

“He has won and finished in the first four of a race over three miles and this will be his third three-mile chase run, which qualifies him for the Grand National.

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“I had Exitas miss the cut a few years ago for the National and I might not get another chance for a runner in it, so I’d like to go for it.”

Middleton reports his stable star, who claimed Listed glory over hurdles at Cheltenham last season, to be in excellent order.

He said: “I was chuffed to bits at Kempton and he will be better for that. We go there full of hope.

“When you look at the ratings he has not got a lot to find with Next Destination and the horse he beat at Newbury (Kalooki) was behind us at Kempton, while Fiddlerontheroof has been second a good few times.

“Kielan Woods is full of hope, he popped him over a few obstacles this week and he jumped fantastic.”

Next Destination will attempt to maintain his unbeaten record over fences after making a winning debut over them at Newbury (Alan Crowhurst/PA)
Next Destination will attempt to maintain his unbeaten record over fences after making a winning debut over them at Newbury (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Jockey Harry Cobden is confident dual Grade One-winning hurdler Next Destination will have no problem handling the testing conditions.

The nine-year-old secured his first victory since joining Paul Nicholls from Willie Mullins when making a winning debut over fences in a Grade Two at Newbury.

Cobden said: “It was his first time over fences last time and he jumped really well and travelled great. He did everything right.

“The ground was better at Newbury, but that shouldn’t make much of a difference at Warwick as he won on quite testing ground over in Ireland.

“I schooled him on Monday and he was fine. He seems great at the moment. He has lots of class for sure.”

Fiddlerontheroof will step up to three miles for the first time under rules (David Davies/PA)
Fiddlerontheroof will step up to three miles for the first time under rules (David Davies/PA)

Connections of the Colin Tizzard-trained Fiddlerontheroof expect the step up in trip to suit the seven-year-old, who has filled the runner-up spot on three of his four starts over fences this season.

Assistant trainer Joe Tizzard said: “Stepping him up to three miles is something we have had on the back of our mind for some time, and he looks like he wants every yard of it.

“He has been consistent all season long, he has lost nothing in defeat – he has just come up against some decent horses.

“This looks the right race to run him in and I think Warwick will suit him as he is a very good jumper of his fences. He has just got to prove he gets the trip and if he does he will be right there.”

Fiddlerontheroof sees off Silver Hallmark for first victory over fences

Fiddlerontheroof put up an ultra-game display to open his account over fences at Exeter.

Winner of the Grade One Tolworth Novices’ Hurdle in January, Fiddlerontheroof had been beaten on his chasing debut by If The Cap Fits at Ffos Las last month, but he learnt plenty from that experience.

Robbie Power set a steady pace as he attempted to make all the running in the Racing TV HD On sky 426 Beginners’ Chase over two miles and three furlongs and he put in a good round of jumping.

Market rival Sporting John was expected to be the big danger, but he was a big disappointment and was out of contention from the third-last fence.

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It was left to the Fergal O’Brien-trained Silver Hallmark to put it up to Fiddleronthehoof (11-10) and he took a narrow lead two out. There was nothing between the pair at the last, but Colin Tizzard’s charge found extra on the run-in to score by a head.

“He put his Ffos Las experience to good use,” said Tizzard.

“He’s a good, solid horse. I think we’ll see him over three miles before too long, but he got the job done.

“It’s just nice to see. Whether he needs to go up (in trip) now, I don’t know.

“The ground is only just good at the moment. In the winter we do know he handles the heavy as well. He’s a strong horse so it’s good going forward.”

He added: “They need to have three or four weeks off. We don’t want to empty him out before Cheltenham, but there are good races coming up before then.

“I suppose we’ll be looking at the one around Kempton (Kauto Star Novices’ Chase). That’s only a month on.

“It’s just nice to see him win and we can sit down and think about it in a day or two.”

Fiddlerontheroof is 25-1 for the Marsh Novices’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival with Betway and was cut to that price from 33-1 with Paddy Power. Coral gave him a quotes of 20-1 for the Marsh and also the RSA Chase.

Tizzard and Power were completing a double after the win by Ofalltheginjoints (85-40 favourite) in the limited handicap chase.

Fiddler bids to step up against Sporting John

Robbie Power expects Fiddlerontheroof to strip fitter than for his seasonal debut when he takes on Sporting John in what looks sure to be an informative Racing TV HD On Sky 426 Beginners’ Chase at Exeter.

Fiddlerontheroof was a Grade One winner last season in the Tolworth Hurdle, but Colin Tizzard wasted no time in sending him over fences after he disappointed at the Cheltenham Festival.

He jumped well in the main when beaten by If The Cap Fits on his chasing debut at Ffos Las – but like many from the yard in the early stages of the campaign, Power feels sure he will be a different proposition this time around.

“You like to think he’d have come forward a good bit for his first run,” said the jockey.

“Touch wood, he jumped very well at Ffos Las and ran with plenty of promise, but our horses have been coming forward for a run this season.

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“It’s early in the season, and most have been needing a run. But there were plenty of positives at Ffos Las, so I’m looking forward to getting back on him.

“Good to soft ground is fine for him, but any rain that falls between now and the race will be in his favour.

“This is when the season really gets going – it’s a big weekend this weekend, so hopefully we can kick on from here.”

Philip Hobbs’ Sporting John created a huge impression in winning his first three over timber last season, before finishing seventh in the Ballymore at Cheltenham behind Envoi Allen.

Hobbs has always viewed him as a chaser, though, and he did have a minor excuse for his Cheltenham display.

Richard Johnson replaces the now-retired Barry Geraghty in the saddle on Wednesday.

Sporting John was impressive at Ascot last season
Sporting John was impressive at Ascot last season (Bradley Collyer/PA)

“His work has been going very well, and he has schooled well, so we are very happy with him,” said Hobbs.

“Colin Tizzard’s horse is obviously very good as well, but we will see how we get on.

“He had a fantastic campaign until Cheltenham, then he disappointed. He was slightly lame on a hind leg straight after the race, although it was okay in a few hours. Quite what that was we don’t know, but he has been fine since.

“We’ve always liked him from day one – he won easily at Exeter and he continued to do so until Cheltenham. Even before he got to the racecourse, he was a good-looking horse that worked and schooled well.

“Chasing should definitely be his job, so that was very much the plan to go that route. I think he has plenty of speed for shorter trips, but he could go further, and it is all flexible at the moment.

“He has had plenty of experience around there – and a good, galloping track suits him well. We were happy with his work, so an away day wasn’t necessary.”