The Festival™ presented by Magners is now just over a week away and the Tizzard family opened the doors to its stables on the Dorset/Somerset border today to discuss their hopes for the four-day spectacular, which runs from Tuesday, 10 March to Friday, 13 March inclusive. Joe Tizzard, assistant trainer to his father Colin, ran through their hopes for The Festival.Joe Tizzard & Lostintranslation today
The Tizzards representative for the feature £625,000 Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup will be Lostintranslation, who earlier in the campaign recorded a decisive success in the G1 Betfair Chase at Haydock Park in November but has not been seen out since pulling up in the G1 Ladbrokes King George VI Chase at Kempton Park on Boxing Day. The Cheltenham Gold Cup went to team Tizzard in 2018 with Native River, who is currently on the sidelines with a tendon injury.
Lostintranslation finished a fine second to Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase contender Defi Du Seuil at The Festival in 2019 and Tizzard is relishing a return to Prestbury Park with the eight-year-old for Jump racing's Blue Riband event in which he is set to take on the likes of defending champion Al Boum Photo, dual G1 scorer Delta Work along with Kemboy, Santini and Presenting Percy.
Joe Tizzard said: "We have held Lostintranslation in very high regard for some time.
"The season was going perfectly after Haydock but the wheels fell of a bit at Kempton. I can't say that we actually found a specific reason for it, but we have tweaked his wind and he has had a soft-palate operation since. I think perhaps had a harder race at Haydock than we thought - it was only three and a bit weeks before Kempton and perhaps it left its toll on him a little bit.
"He had his wind tweaked the following week after Kempton and hasn't missed a beat since. He has been in full training - he went away for a gallop the week before last and had a good blow, which has put him spot on. We are really happy with where he is.
"Although he is a big horse, he wouldn't mind it drying out as the week went on.
"Robbie (Power, jockey) has always maintained that he is a Flemensfirth and would be better on top of the ground. He was saying that all through last season and is saying it again now. I wouldn't mind if it is a beautiful week at Cheltenham and we get to Friday to find it is genuine good to soft because that would really suit him.
"His novice form with Defi du Seuil is as strong as anything and he proved that he stayed at Haydock. I quite like the fact that he has gone a bit quiet now because he can come into the race without too much pressure. We feel that we have got him right back to where we want him - not right back, because we thought that we had him right where we wanted going into the King George. He has been freshened right up, is doing all his work and goes to Cheltenham really well.
"We haven't lost any faith in the horse. We think he is a gorgeous horse and he is big, powerful boy. He will travel around Cheltenham and I still wouldn't write him out of it.
"I still think he is a very good horse. He has cracking form at Cheltenham - he won the Dipper and finished second in the JLT. He bounces off that nice ground as well and you can see him travelling really well in a Gold Cup. There is always the question mark of the extra couple of furlongs up the hill that takes some getting but, if we got some genuine good to soft ground, I think he could travel into it and be bang there at the last.
"He has just got one blot and that is his King George run. I think it was because he had a harder race at Haydock than we thought but, bar that blot on his copybook, he is a very exciting horse. Robbie was quick to pull him up when he was beaten and that is not a bad thing. He doesn't bottom a young horse but he has the experience - he knew that he was going to be anywhere so he looked after the horse. He is a fresh horse now and can have a strong spring campaign. He has really come back to himself at home and he looks a picture. We have been really happy with his work. I am not saying that he is going to win a Gold Cup but he has a live chance going into it.
"If you had said to us last year that we had to beat the second and third from the RSA Chase, then we would have been comfortable, not confident, taking them on. It's difficult for horses to back up winning two Gold Cups but I certainly wouldn't rule Al Boum Photo out because they have looked after him well and he goes there a particularly fresh horse.
"I think it is a wide-open race and as competitive race as you could get 10 days before. I am not so sure whether they are standout horses, like we have had in the past, but I think it is very competitive."
Team Tizzard also have an embarrassment of riches in the novice hurdling division. They are headed by G1 winner Fiddlerontheroof, who will bid to provide the stable with a dream start to The Festival in the opening £125,000 G1 Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle over two miles. Second to smart novices Thyme Hill and Edwardstone on his first two starts for the yard, the £200,000 purchase followed up victory in a novice event at Sandown with a comfortable success back at the Esher venue in the G1 Tolworth Hurdle in January.
Rated by Joe Tizzard as the stable's "best chance" of a winner at the meeting, he is a general 6/1 shot for the curtain-raiser to the four-day extravaganza.
Tizaard said: "Fiddlerontheroof has been in outstanding form this season and he has been kept fresh for the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle ever since. I don't mind if the ground is testing for him. A bit of rain this week will suit him as he handles soft ground really well. He will definitely want a bit of cut, he is a big, strong boy who can handle the softer ground. He is just a lovely, big horse. His form has been good, his coat has come right and he is going to be our only horse in the Supreme as Master Debonair will go straight to Aintree.
"I think Fiddlerontheroof has a great chance, especially if the ground is on the slower side. He has run some very good races this season, finishing second to both Thyme Hill and Edwardstone before winning twice at Sandown. His bumper form in Ireland had been good before we got him. He will make a gorgeous chaser next season, but is a pretty decent novice hurdler so far this season.
"I am looking forward to Fiddlerontheroof. It's the first race of the week - we didn't have a winner last year but the year before we had to wait until the Friday and it becomes a long week. I wouldn't mind getting one on the board early doors and I think the ground is right for him this year. He has been saved for this since the beginning of January and he has got some strong form. There is a bit more too Fiddlerontheroof compared to Elixir de Nutz, who won the Tolworth last year. Fiddlerontheroof is a much more powerful horse and he was very impressive in the Tolworth. If we get the slower side ground, he will run his race."
The €360,000 purchase The Big Breakaway has looked a potential star in the making in two starts under Rules. The five-year-old recorded a decisive eight length victory on his debut for the yard at Chepstow in November, before defying a penalty at Newbury in December. Forced to miss Festival Trials Day due to a small setback, connections are hopeful the son of Getaway can serve it up to hot favourite Envoi Allen in the G1 Ballymore Novices' Hurdle on Wednesday, 11 March.
"The Big Breakaway is a gorgeous horse", said Tizzard.
"He is going to run in the Ballymore. He is the only horse in our yard who hasn't been clipped this year - he has had that coat all year round. We bought him at Punchestown and he was a stand-out. He cost a lot of money, but he has done nothing wrong at all.
"He was going to go to Festival Trials Day, but he was fighting with a horse next door when he got fed and he kicked the side of the stable. His hock swelled up and he had a tiny infection for three days, so he has been kept fresh since. He had a gallop at Larkhill last week. It is a big ask for a horse on his third start under Rules to go and win at Cheltenham. Obviously, there is also Envoi Allen in there, but he is a very talented horse with a lot of ability and will have an exciting future. This horse has just looked a bit special this year and he could well be.
"Envoi Allen is a very good horse, but we're not going to run away from them. We have to run our horses in the right race for them. Hopefully, we have a bit of luck on the day and may the best horse win.
"Getaway Fred could go for the Ballymore or the Coral Cup. However, if he gets balloted out, he could go to Kempton, the owners would like a runner at Cheltenham, but he might not be good enough."
The yard also has two live contenders in the £125,000 G1 Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle over three miles (Friday, 13 March) courtesy of Harry Senior and Lieutenant Rocco.
Harry Senior bids for a third victory in succession having backed up victory in maiden hurdle company at Chepstow with success in G2 company at Cheltenham on Festival Trials Day. Second to Supreme Novices' Hurdle contenders Sporting John and Edwardstone as well this season, Tizzard is hoping the step up in trip will eke out extra improvement from the six-year-old. Lieutenant Rocco comes into The Festival as a potential dark horse following two comfortable victories at Chepstow and Warwick in heavy ground this term and is highly regarded by the Tizzards.
Discussing the duo, he continued: "Harry Senior won a G2 last time at Cheltenham and has got some very strong form. He got beat a length and a half by Sporting John first time out and we were a bit disappointed with that, but it has actually turned out to be very strong form. Then he went up to Aintree and got beat by Edwardstone, who had beaten Fiddlerontheroof the time before. Then he won a little race on Welsh National day and did it very nicely in a G2 last time - he looked beat two out and actually won with a bit in hand.
"He is a horse who has been improving in himself all year and both he and Lieutenant Rocco are going to run in the Albert Bartlett. There wouldn't be masses between them - there is not a lot between them on ratings and we wouldn't have a lot between them. They are both very straightforward.
"Lieutenant Rocco has won two novice hurdles but couldn't have been more impressive either time.
"He bolted up in probably not that strong a race at Chepstow but he beat a 132 horse [Stick With Bill] at Warwick with a penalty and did it very nicely. He is a big, strong, scopey horse and will make a lovely horse when he jumps a fence next year.
"They both need to improve to win at The Festival but they are both on the upgrade and could end up to be nice horses. We haven't had the chat with Robbie to decide which way he is going to go but he did give Lieutenant Rocco a squeeze after the last to see what was left in the tank, so he was having a bit of a feeler to see if he was on the right one."
Strength-in-depth is also evident in the novice chase battalion which is headed by the ultra-progressive Copperhead. Victorious in handicap company Wincanton and Newbury in December, the six-year-old took the transition to Graded company in his stride when plundering the G2 Reynoldstown Novices' Chase at Ascot in February. A tilt at the £175,000 Grade One RSA Insurance Novices' Chase over three miles (Wednesday, 11 March) is being favoured by connections over the £125,000 National Hunt Chase (Tuesday, 10 March) at The Festival.
Tizzard continued: "Copperheadhas a rating of 155. He won the Reynoldstown last time. He has been so progressive it's unheard of to be honest. He needed his first run and then he won handicaps at Kempton and Newbury. The first time we stepped him up to a Graded race at Ascot he improved again. His progression has been unbelievable really.
"He jumps, he stays and he is just very relaxed. We've had a lot of conversations as to what race we will run in. Dad and I are leaning towards the RSA as are the owners. He has got the pace to handle that race and if he takes another step forward, he would have to have an almighty chance in it. He is not completely finished, another summer on his back, he is growing to be a serious horse next season and he is really exciting.
"He has got to improve again, but we're looking forward to him. 18 months ago, he was very backward and awkward. This year he came in a different horse. I don't know where is going to end up, but he has just improved with every run and is very straightforward."
Slate House could join Copperhead in the RSA Novices' Chase or take in the £150,000 G1 Marsh Novices' Chase over two and a half-miles on Thursday, 12 March. A three-time winner this term, the eight-year-old captured the G1 Kauto Star Novices' Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day, but disappointed when pulled-up in the G2 Paddy Power Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham on Festival Trials Day in January.
Discussing the quandary over what race to target, Tizzard remarked: "Slate House is the highest-rated novice in the country off 156. The decision has not been definitely made as to where we end up at Cheltenham. He has entries in both the RSA Chase and the Marsh. He has form over two and a half at Cheltenham, but has also won the Kauto Star at Kempton over three miles. We will see what the ground does. If it dries up he might go for the RSA and the Marsh if the ground is slower.
"On his last run, he was taking on Gold Cup horses and Robbie Power pulled him up when he saw he had no chance which is one of the reasons we employ Robbie as he looks after horses when they are beaten. His coat has come through nice. Slate House has got G1 winning form in the bank and we just can't decide what trip to run him in and we'll probably leave him in both races and decide on the day. The ground is going to be important to him and we'll have to think about it up until the day. He was never really travelling in the Cotswold Chase and Robbie looked after him. That's what we want our jockeys to be like, he wasn't pressured into finishing third and he saved him for another day. He is a horse who has taken plenty of racing and he is the highest-rated novice this season over a longer trip."
The novice chase contingent is completed by Reserve Tank, who is on course to tackle the Marsh Novices' Chase. A dual G1 winner over hurdles last season, the son of Jeremy landed the G2 Rising Stars Novices' Chase at Wincanton, before failing to justify odds-on favouritism in the G2 John Francome Novices' Chase at Newbury in November. Off the track since, connections are hopeful that drying ground and the changing seasons will see him to better effect in the two and a half-mile event at The Festival™ presented by Magners.
Tizzard continued: "Reserve Tank heads for the Marsh Novices' Chase.
"He is a very talented horse and may have been forgotten about it for the Cheltenham Festival. He has fresh at Chepstow on his first start this season. He then won the Rising Stars at Wincanton and just wasn't quite right at Newbury last time out. He just doesn't quite handle winter ground, nor the cold to be honest with you. He doesn't work well at home in those times, but he does come right in the spring.
"Whether the ground is too slow for him at Cheltenham is my only concern. He wouldn't want real dead ground as that would just blunt his pace a little bit We've just started to put him under heat lamps at home to help him, but whatever happens at Cheltenham, I'm sure he will come back to his best at Aintree and Punchestown as he is very much a spring and good ground horse. His work has just started to look real good. Don't worry about the fact that he hasn't had a run. He went away to Larkhill for a gallop and everything is just coming right with him. He proved it at the backend of last season that he is a very good horse and he is just a horse who is difficult to train through the winter on that real heavy ground.
"He will definitely run in the Marsh, he will be a fresh horse and we'll try to do Cheltenham, Aintree and Punchestown. Two and a half miles is ideal for him and I think ground and the time of the year are the most important factors for him. Copperhead and Slate House will either clash in the RSA or Slate House will take on Reserve Tank in the Marsh, so we have options."
Discussing the rest of the team, Tizzard said: "West Approach is going to run in the Paddy Power Stayers' Hurdle. He has run races in small fields, but he is a better hurdler.
"He never really got into the race at Haydock in the Rendlesham and he has the chance of running into a place in the Stayers' Hurdle. Paisley Park should be the banker of the week as I think he has got everything. This little chap has lived in the shadow of his full-brother Thisltecrack, but hopefully he can run into a place.
"Mister Malarky runs in the Ultima Handicap Chase. He did it really nicely at Kempton. He is in good form and it's great to see him come back to form. It just wasn't happening for him in the first half of the season, but he has turned a corner now and we are very happy with him. He went up 4lb for winning at Kempton, so he is near the top of the handicap in the Ultima. He should be competitive off that and hopefully there is more to come. He just came right at the turn of the year. He's got good Cheltenham form, was fourth in the RSA last year and he has come out of Kempton really well. It is one of the most competitive races of the week, but he deserves to take his chance in it - he will grow into be a Grand National type next year.
"Highest Sun goes in the Northern Trust Company Novices' Handicap Chase. He is not the most consistent of horses, but he did it well at Plumpton earlier this season and he has perhaps quite not got home over three miles the last twice. I think dropping back in trip, this is the right race for him and I think he will run well. There is no reason why he shouldn't have a live each-way chance in that race. He has got plenty of experience and has just come in his coat - he is probably the best we've had him all season.
"Kilbricken Storm is Pertemps bound. He has dropped to a mark of 140 and we had to go up to Haydock to get him qualified because we lost a couple of meeting due to the weather. He is an Albert Bartlett winner and has been competitive this season, so he would have a live each-way chance. He lost his form last season and had a pelvis injury, so it didn't quite happen for him, but he has run himself back into form this year. He needs to run a season's best but hopefully that will come. He likes it around Cheltenham - the owners were keen to run him in Cleeve on Trials Day and he still ran a solid race. I think Harry [Cobden] can ride him and he gets on very well with the horse.
"I think Eldorado Allen is going for the County Hurdle. He probably didn't run his best race at Sandown last time - his first run back was a really strong run, when he just got tired coming back for some time. We thought that we would have a crack at the Contenders Hurdle, but he didn't run his best race - he travelled into and then didn't really see it out. He is off a workable mark and I think a fast-run two miles will suit. We are just concerned that Terry Warner is in Tenerife at the moment and might not make it back!
"Lamanver Pippin is an out-and-out stayer and the plan for him is to run in the National Hunt Chase. He is just a relentless galloper and we've booked Will Biddick to ride him. He's exciting and the further the better for him. He had a nice gallop round Larkhill last week and will be very fresh and ready for the race.
"Beaufort West Beaufort West is going to be aimed at the Martin Pipe and it's going to be touch and go whether he gets in. He is owned by the same people as Lostintranslation and they are quite keen to have as many runners there as possible. I think he is on a very competitive mark but it's touch and go whether he gets in. I have confirmed him for Sandown on Saturday but we need to see whether he gets in or not,
"The owners are keener to go to Cheltenham - I have told them about the bonus but they have got so much money, they are not that worried! It will be pretty hard work at Sandown and then there are Aintree options as well, so if he gets balloted out, he can be saved until then. We purposely put Jonjo on him to have a little feel of him in case J P McManus's horses don't turn up and we can tempt him away. He is at the right end of the handicap if he gets in and would be competitive.
"Getaway Fred will be declared for the Coral Cup or the Ballymore - it's touch and go whether he will get in and he could go to Kempton Park if he gets balloted out as he is quite good round there. He has done his job for the owners [Victor and Celia Goaman], who are new owners and are quite keen to have a runner at Cheltenham. It would be a nice day out for them but, on what he has done, he is not quite good enough to be mega competitive. Catch The Cuban won't go for the Boodles."
"We are going to give Elegant Escape a spin in the Grand National. He got stuck in the mud terrible last time - Robbie Power doesn't bottom horses when it looks like it is not quite happening for them and saves a bit. The horse is jumping out of his skin at the moment and it's just whether we go straight to the National. The Gold Cup has not been a bad preparation for a Grand National but he is the sort of horse that could give himself a hard race and there is only three weeks between the two, so I doubt he will be going to Cheltenham."
Reflecting on the 2020 Cheltenham Festival squad as a whole, he said: "We want to be having winners at these big Festivals. It didn't quite happen for us last year but then they all came right at Aintree and Punchestown, when we had a really good time. We want to have Cheltenham Festival winners, that is what we talk about all year and whet we aim these horses at all year. We will be disappointed if we don't have a winner but we appreciate how hard it is. We have been going there long enough but we have a very strong novice team going there this year and hopefully one of them will come good. "
Discussing 2018 Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Native River, Tizzard added: "Native River has done his suspensory tendon and that is this season over. He will be back in next year and hopefully he will be ready to run in December. It's just a little setback at the wrong time really."