Trainer Colin Tizzard targeting perfect finish to career in Cheltenham Festival Gold Cup

COLIN TIZZARD hopes to end his training career on a glorious high in today’s WellChild Cheltenham Gold Cup before passing the reins to his son Joe.

This was Native River winning the 2018 Cheltenham Gold Cup for Richard Johnson and the soon-to-retire Colin Tizzard.

He saddles the 2018 winner Native River, bidding to become just the second horse after Kauto Star in 2009, to regain the title and stablemate Lostintranslation.

The former dairy farmer has been one of jump racing’s dominant, and most popular, forces since Cue Card, ridden by his son, won the 2010 Champion Bumper.

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Yet Tizzard and his wife Pauline were left bereft when their daughter Kim Gingell, so integral to their success, died in May just weeks after being diagnosed with cancer.

Trainer Colin Tizzard has been reflecting on his career ahead of the WellChild Cheltenham Gold Cup.

It explained the outpouring of emotion when Native River, owned by Brocade Racing, warmed up for today’s test by landing the Denman Chase at Sandown under ex-champion jockey Richard Johnson.

The concern will be that the drying ground in the Cotswolds will be too quick for the 11-year-old Native River against the likes of the Willie Mullins-trained Al Boum Photo, who is seeking a third successive win in the race.

Yet this year’s Gold Cup has a surprisingly wide open complexion – Al Boum Photo does not have the crowd following of former three-time winners like Best Mate and Arkle – and Native River would be an extremely popular champion.

And the Tizzard horses are slowly coming into form after a quiet period by the yard’s own high standards.

This was Native River and Richard Johnson winning last month's Denman Chase at Sandown.

“Native River has been in good order all season,” said the outgoing trainer last night.

“I’m sure if he was eight he’d be in the top three in the betting.

“He’s in properly cracking form, and our horses are running well. I wouldn’t dismiss Lostintranslation, either – he’s in great form, the best I can remember in fact.

“Native River is a class horse and we know he stays three miles, two furlongs, Lostintranslation.

The ever popular Cue Card became a standard-bearer for the soon-to-retire Colin Tizzard.

“I am sure you will see turning in as though he might win it, but as we’ve seen here, horses have got to get up this hill, and I’d say Native River of the two.” 

Tizzard said only the name above the door at the family’s Dorset stables, where they used to milk cows, will be changing. “I am not retiring – I shall be helping Joe – but it’s the right time,” he reflected.

“I’m 65, I left school at 15 and have worked between 50 and 60 hours a week for 50 years – I don’t want to have to work every day anymore. We’ve had a hard winter and losing Kim hasn’t helped one iota. Joe is the right age for the business and I’ve been really happy since I announced it.

“It’s just that Joe will have all the ups and downs – they will go straight to him and I will have the diluted ones.”

Reflecting on his career Tizzard revealed that his favourite Festival memory is of Cue Card winning the Champion Bumper in 2010 before going on to triumph in the 2014 Ryanair Chase.

“The crowd-pleasing horse also fell at the third last fence in both the 2016 and 2017 Gold Cups while still in contention,

“I remember watching him walk around the pre-parade ring,” added Tizzard. “He was a little four-year-old. Willie Mullins had six six year olds in it, and someone asked me why I was running that lovely four-year-old in this race? “That made me start to wonder, actually. I said to Joe he had to hold him up. He didn’t want to, but he did for about half a circuit.

“The way he ran up the hill – it made the back of my neck go stiff. He was fantastic. The Native River Gold Cup was nearly as good, but Cue Card’s Bumper was the one.”

Meanwhile Charlie Deutsch hopes his first Gold Cup ride is a redemptive one when he partners the Ventia Williams-trained Royale Pagaille.

The horse, owned by Rich and Susannah Ricci, has enjoyed wide-margin wins at Kempton and Haydock this season after being sourced in France by Guy Petit – son-in-law to the late Yorkshire training great Ferdy Murphy.

Deutsch is enjoying his best ever season and the 24-year-old knows he’s fortunate to have the support of Williams after being jailed for 10 months in 2018 for driving offences following a night out with friends, she loyally stuck by the jockey when he regained his liberty.

Although the decision to run the seven-year-old in the Gold Cup – rather than the Sam Vestey National Hunt Novices’ Chase earlier in the week – was only made at the weekend, Deutsch is confident the correct call has been made.

He said: I was gutted to miss out on him at Haydock last time (Tom Scudamore was in the saddle for the Peter Marsh Chase) but I’m just really happy to keep the ride on him.

“Numerically it has been my best season to date and it would be a nice touch if I could win this on top.

“Hopefully the hype will be right.

“I’m really lucky that I’ve had the support of Venetia and I’d like to think I’m doing my best to reward her as much as I can.”

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