He may not be tearing up trees with regards to the number of winners he’s producing, but prize money is certainly stacking up nicely, and Colin Tizzard suddenly has several horses within the yard capable of winning at the highest level.
Thistlecrack’s performances have been well documented. He is a horse with a huge future, and already a short-priced favourite for one of the main events at the Cheltenham Festival.
Cue Card looks to be back to his very best. An operation on his trapped epiglottis appears to have revitalised the old warrior, and he has already taken the Charlie Hall and the Betfair Chase in a sparkling start to the season. Many anticipate a huge run in the King George this weekend, and Tizzard recently said: “I just have to make sure he's fit and well. I would just love to win a King George. He's been a damn good horse for five years now and he deserves to.”
The trainer also has Native River primed for a shot at the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton on Saturday. He’s impressed in back to back victories, having stepped up in trip at Exeter and Newbury. He’s a thorough stayer who finds plenty for pressure. There’s a chance that a flat, tight track such as Kempton will prove less than ideal, but further rain will help, and he’ll be galloping on relentlessly when others have given up the ghost. He looks an ideal type for the four-miler at Cheltenham in March.
At Chepstow on Sunday the trainer is hoping for another big-run from Theatre Guide, this time in the Welsh National. He ran a cracker in the Hennessy last month, running on strongly to finish second. His jumping can be a little erratic, but Tizzard appears confident that if he’s in touch late on he’ll play a huge part in the outcome.
The trainer points to a move of stables as the catalyst to the current upturn in fortunes. Leaving Venn Farm for a purpose built yard just beyond the top of the gallops has been hailed as a major success. Moving out of the valley to new aerated barns with skylights and plenty of ventilation is thought by Tizzard to be a huge plus. And his horses appear to have responded.
Speaking to local press prior to the move an excited trainer had said: “We've been thinking about this for two years. It's a healthy environment there with wonderful views – it's a dream come true to have a training establishment and a separate dairy farm which will still be based at Venn Farm. Now all I need to do is to get the winners to pay for it.”
He now has around 60 horses at his disposal and remains in the heart of the beautiful Blackmore Vale countryside, just 10 miles from Wincanton Racecourse. His son and former jockey Joe, is in charge of the dairy farm but still retains his role as assistant trainer. He has the task of completing his farm duties by 7am before heading up to support Dad.
Tizzard senior was born into the family business in 1956. The second son of farmers Leslie and Marjorie, he grew up on the family farm. Dairy farming and horses have always been his passion and he’s managed to make a success of both.
The fortunes of the yard have so often been dependant on the performances of Cue Card. However, signs are that the burden of expectation is now to be spread among a number of top class horses, with the likelihood of major pots being won during an exciting winter.