Despite the heart-wrenching season-ending injury to former Cheltenham Gold Cup Favourite Thistlecrack, few trainers can be looking forward to the arrival of this year’s Cheltenham Festival more than Colin Tizzard. Not only does he still have Cue Card and Native River disputing favouritism for the Blue Riband Event, but he also has many other horses that could give him a squeak of being crowned Cheltenham Trainer for the first time at this year’s Festival.
The ex-French horse hasn’t lived-up to his tall-reputation since arriving from France, but Tizzard stated Alary’s jumping has been phenomenal this week. Gold Cup aspirations have been shelved though, with the Ryan-Air now the intended target.
Cue Card’s aspirations have moved in the opposite direction to those of Alary, with connections casting aside the apparent easier opportunity of winning the Ryan Air in favour of another bid to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup. As big as 14/1 a few weeks ago, he’s now disputing favouritism with Native River and, if he turns-up in the form he did last year, he will be hard to beat if he can stay on his feet this time around.
Tizzard loves this full brother to former Champion Chase winner Finian’s Rainbow, and it is partly that sibling which is causing the trainer the headache of whether to run him in the 2-mile Supreme Novice Hurdle or the longer Neptune Hurdle. The ground may be the final influence on that decision, but he’s expected to make a deep impression in whichever race he appears in.
Another talented horse whose choice of targets is causing his trainer a headache. The Queen Mother Champion Chase would be the preferred option, but Douvan is long odds-on for that assignment. Second place would be no disgrace there but, if his owners decide they want to give him the best chance of winning a race at this year’s Festival, he could also be rerouted to the Ryan Air.
A young strapping chaser that continued his fine progress from last year into this year when winning the Hennessey. He was then scintillating when winning the Welsh National by a street carrying top-weight, and followed that by laughing at Bristol De Mai and Le Mercurey at Newbury. Looks sure to put the pace to the race in the Gold Cup, and the others better be prepared for a battle.
Jockey Paddy Brennan is desperate to ride him in the RSA Chase, but connections are of the opinion Royal Vacation wouldn’t beat Might Bite if that one puts in a clear round at Cheltenham, which he didn’t do at Kempton when Royal Vacation took advantage. That means he may appear in the National Hunt Chase – and Colin Tizzard has no doubts about him getting the 4-mile trip.
This full-brother to Thistlecrack may not yet be as good as his sibling, but connections are debating following the same route by running him in the Stayers Hurdle. However, having already finished behind Unowhatimeanharry this season, the Albert Bartlett could prove a much easier option.