It took Colin Tizzard about 20 years to go from dairy farmer to Cheltenham Gold Cup winning trainer, so we thought we’d check out some of the steps along that memorable journey.
Where it All Began
Venn Farm is a 500-acre dairy farm where Colin Tizzard, trainer of King George winning horses like Cue Card and Thistlecrack, as well as Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Native River, resides. It is located in the Blackmore Vale countryside, just a few miles from Wincanton Racecourse, where the relaxed atmosphere seems to do horses the power of good.
1998 to 2009
Anyone that thinks that Colin Tizzard was an instant success as a trainer can think again. He had just one winner from 22 runners in the 1998/99 season, though 5 winners from just 29 runners was a big step in the right direction the following year. He was still a long way away from the trainer he is today though, and the following nine seasons only produced winning tallies of 11, 13, 9, 22, 19, 24, 20, 28, and 19 winners.
2009 and 2010
The 2009/10 season was when Colin Tizzard caught the eye of the racing public and several prospective owners. It was the year that Cue Card won the Cheltenham Festival Bumper as a four-year-old, winning it by a stunning eight-lengths from the subsequent useful hurdler and chaser Al Ferof. It was also Tizzard’s best-ever season with 32 winners, though that would soon change.
2011 to 2018
Tizzard continued to go from strength to strength, with season hauls of 41, 46, 43, 26, 38, 50, 57, and 79 winners. It is not just the number of winners that have increased in recent seasons though, as an influx of better-class horses has made the stable competitive at all the big meetings, meaning that the amount of prize money has increased by an even bigger percentage. Indeed, the stable won over £1.4 Million in 2015/16, and topped the £2 Million barrier in 2016/17. It also just missed out on breaking that barrier again in 2017/18, when it recorded prize money of £1.975 Million
The Story of Colin Tizzard’s Biggest Wins
Despite Cue Card’s success in the Champion Bumper, it took Tizzard another three years to get a Grade 1 win out of him. That came in the Ascot Chase in February 2013. Cue Card would also win the 2013 Betfair Chase in November of the following season.
Cue Card returned to Haydock in 2015 to win a second Betfair Chase to set up a go at the £1 Million Bonus on offer for any horse that could win the Betfair Chase, King George and Cheltenham Gold Cup. However, whilst Cue Card was waiting for the middle-leg of the bonus, another of Tizzard’s star performers Thistlecrack won his first grade 1 race in the 2015 Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot. Cue Card then capped a memorable 2015 with victory in the 2015 King George Chase at Kempton.
It was all roads to Cheltenham after that, with Thistlecrack winning the Cleeve Hurdle as a warm up to the World Hurdle (now Stayers’ Hurdle), whilst Cue Card went to Cheltenham without another run. Thistlecrack eased to a 7-lengths success in the World Hurdle, but the fairy tale season for Cue Card was not to be as he fell at the third-last fence in the Gold Cup, when he looked to be travelling every bit as well as the eventual winner Don Cossack.
Both Thistlecrack and Cue Card also took in Aintree that season, with Thistlecrack an easy winner of the Liverpool Hurdle, whilst Cue Card also sauntered to an easy win in the Aintree Bowl.
In the close season, Tizzard decided to map out a novice chase campaign for Thistlecrack but, after three easy wins in novice company, connections decided he had earned a crack at the King George alongside reigning champion Cue Card, who had won his third Betfair Chase a month before.
Tizzard had already landed the grade 1 Kauto Star Novices’ Chase with Royal Vacation by the time the bookies were betting 11/10 Thistlecrack and 5/4 Cue Card at the off, but Thistlecrack proved the better horse on the day with a 3¼ length victory over his stablemate. Both horses were then aimed at the 2017 Cheltenham Gold Cup but, whilst Cue Card warmed up with a second win in the Ascot Chase, Thistlecrack was beaten in the Cotswald Chase. Thistlcrack was subsequently found to be injured, but Cue Card lined up for a second crack at the Gold Cup. The third fence again proved his downfall, though he wasn’t travelling as well at the time as he had been the previous year.
Cue Card was also beaten in the Aintree Bowl that season, though Tizzard was amongst the winners at Aintree, thanks to Pingshou in the Top Novices’ Hurdle, and Finian’s Oscar in the Mersey Novices Hurdle. Fox Norton also won the Melling Chase before doubling his Grade 1 tally with victory in the Boylesports Champion Chase at Punchestown.
Tizzard also unveiled another potential star when Kilbricken Storm won the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at the 2018 Cheltenham Festival whilst, of course, Native River won the 2018 Cheltenham Gold Cup. Finian’s Oscar also returned to Aintree to win the Manifesto Novices’ Chase in 2018.
Colin Tizzard’s Horses to Watch
Cue Card may have been retired, whilst Finian’s Oscar has sadly passed away, and Fox Notron is out for the season, but Native River and Thistlecrack are set to lead the challenge for grade 1 chasing honours this season, starting with the Betfair Chase.
Tizzard also has Elegant Escape aimed firmly at the Ladbrokes Trophy, whilst Kilbricken Storm has successfully begun a novice chase campaign.
Meanwhile, Lostintranslation and Pingshou could be two other novice chasers to note. So, whilst some of Tizzard’s stars may have fallen by the wayside this season, Tizzard’s star still looks to be firmly in the ascendancy at the moment.