COLIN TIZZARD’S team say they could not be happier with the bi- race preparations of stablemates Lostintranslation and Thistlecrack ahead of the Ladbrokes King George VI Chase – jump racing’s mid-season highlight.
The centrepiece of the Boxing Day programme, a select six runners will go to post at Kempton for this three-mile Grade One championship contest which Paul Nicholls – responsible for Clan Des Obeaux and Cyrname – will be bidding to win for an 11th time.
Yet Tizzard, now firmly established as a fully fledged rival to Nicholls in Somerset, is no stranger to King George success following the wins of the popular Cue Card, now retired, in 2015 before Thistlecrack triumphed 12 months later while still a novice.
However, while Thistlecrack is coming to the end of a career that has been blighted by injury in recent seasons, Lostintranslation is widely regarded as the emerging superstar of the steeplechasing season.
A Grade One winner at Aintree’s Grand National meeting last April when Phil Kirby’s Top Ville Ben was third for Yorkshire, the horse made a winning comeback at Carlisle under Robbie Power before denying course specialist Bristol De Mai in last month’s Betfair Chase at Haydock.
“Lostintranslation has been absolutely fine and we have not missed a day with him at all,” said Tizzard’s son and assistant, Joe, who also has past experience of riding in the King George.
“He has done all the work we wanted to do and goes into the race as we would like him.
“He showed last year he has the speed for two-and-a-half miles and he jumps and travels well, so there are no worries about the track at all.
“It is only a small field, but a very competitive one and we are looking forward to the race.”
As for Thistlecrack, he chased home Stayers’ Hurdle winner Paisley Park over hurdles at Newbury on his only outing to date this season, suggesting he still has the class to challenge for top honours.
He headed the field into the home straight last year – and looked the more likely winner before Clan Des Obeaux, challenging later under young Harry Cobden in the colours of legendary football manager Sir Alex Ferguson, took the lead on the run to the last.
“He was second in this last year which was the best performance on ratings by any of our horses last season,” continued Tizzard.
“He had a lovely school under Tom Scudamore the other day and jumped very nicely. The owners were keen to have another go, as it has been a brilliant race for him.
“This is probably his last season in training and it would be nice to see him run well in the race again.”
Venetia Williams’s Aso, second in the Ryanair at Cheltenham in March, also lines up along with Willie Mullins’ Footpad, with the 2018 Arkle winner the lowest-rated runner in the race on a lofty 165.
The only horse not declared was Warren Greatrex’s mare La Bague Au Roi – she could now take on Phil Kirby’s stable star Lady Buttons at Doncaster on Sunday.
The 2018 winner, Lake View Lad, heads a 10-strong field for Wetherby’s feature Rowland Meyrick Chase on Boxing Day.
The horse, owned by Trevor Hemmings and trained by Scotland, will be bidding to give North Yorkshire jockey Henry Brooke an unprecedented fourth successive win in the race.
Though the grey has top weight, forecast soft ground will be a plus while Brooke is still buoyed by his success on Micky Hammond’s Cornerstone Lad in last month’s Fighting Fifth Chase at Newcastle – it was the jockey’s first Grade One win.
“He has been a superb horse for the yard and, hopefully, he can run another big race at Wetherby,” said Alexander.
Huntingdon has been forced to abandon its Boxing Day meeting following flood damage to the stables, weighing room and other public areas at the track.