All Tizzard touches turns to Gold
The trainers' championship; the Gold Cup; paying off the mortgage. Everything seems increasingly within reach for Colin Tizzard. Our man Will Hayler reports from Hennessy Gold Cup day at Newbury.
Colin Tizzard collects the winner's trophy from Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall.
First things first. Go and back Viconte du Noyer now for next Saturday's Becher Chase.
With three Newbury winners and a tidy prize money haul for his owners of around £150,000, Colin Tizzard glided past Philip Hobbs into a clear second place in the trainers' championship.
After their first success with Thistlecrack, the Tizzards were invited for a celebratory drink by the racecourse. After Native River's success, they'd been upgraded to the Royal Box. He'd been there for all of a couple of minutes when he was heading back down to the winner's enclosure for a third time, thanks to Ultragold.
Tizzard said he wouldn't mind more days like this.
For the fourth consecutive Saturday, he was bagging a big prize over fences, the likes of Gentleman Jon, Viconte du Noyer and Fox Norton, and Cue Card having all registered significant successes over the last three weekends.
With Fox Norton having failed to recover in time from a cut sustained in victory at Cheltenham a fortnight ago, it will be down to Viconte du Noyer, successful at the same meeting, to represent the yard in a bid to keep up the momentum next weekend at Aintree. His trainer hopes he'll go very close.
But it is the pursuit of steeplechasing's most prestigious prize of all upon which Tizzard seems increasingly set, the strands of his growing Dorset team all seemingly woven to come together in one race.
Michael Dickinson's achievement in saddling the first five home in the Cheltenham Gold Cup back in 1983 has seemed ever since like one of those racing records so absurdly unachievable that it could never be realistically attempted again, let alone repeated.
Victories here at Newbury for Thistlecrack and Native River saw both of those horses take their next steps to the Gold Cup, and Tizzard also had a positive bulletin to offer of Cue Card after his third Betfair Chase success seven days earlier.
"If you'd seen him canter this morning with his head in his chest, you'd have thought he was a three-year-old – he's simply amazing," said the trainer, who went on to say he also considered Viconte Du Noyer (see above) and Alan Potts' recent purchase from France, Alary, as being "right in the frame for the Gold Cup".
Native River was winning off a mark of 157 here and will need to find more if he is to be considered a legitimate Gold Cup contender, but he certainly has less to prove over fences than Thistlecrack – whatever you might think of that horse's potential – and Tizzard wasn't the only observer to think this thorough stayer pulled out more when Carole's Destrier got to his quarters 100 yards from the winning post.
At 20/1, there are surely worst bets available for the Gold Cup, even if Tizzard was left struggling to come up with a coherent route there in the immediate aftermath of victory.
"He's in the Welsh National, but I just wonder if he might be a little better than that," he said. "I don't know to be fair – I haven't thought past this.
"At one stage today, it looked like it was going to be by five lengths today and I was thinking 'He's nearly a Gold Cup horse, isn't he?'
"If he's in the same sort of form in March, he'll join Thistlecrack and Cue Card, I would have thought. Hennessy winners do go on and do that. He's a Hennessy winner and that's great, when you watch the re-runs of this race all of the great horses that have won it."
With some skilful juggling, Tizzard could easily get all of his possible Gold Cup starters to Cheltenham without having to meet each other. Thistlecrack, who jumped better than on his previous start, is set to line up on the same card as Cue Card for their next starts on Boxing Day, but not in the same race.
But that juggling of targets, and a natural tendency to scour the British programme book before looking at options in Ireland, is what is going to give him a legitimate shot at the trainers' championship title.
In the meantime, he's just hoping the good run continues.
"We had a great season last year and we thought we'd have a job to do that again but here we are. It's amazing the way they have come back in form again. It's brilliant," he said.
"At the moment it's running from one day to the next and into the next so you haven't got time to really get worried about it. It's just fantastic, isn't it?
"I'm enjoying it that's what I'm doing. Is it pressure? I don't know if it's any pressure. I didn't think about it until I got here today and all the people on the gate were saying 'Good luck today'.
"I'm old enough to enjoy it. This is what I dreamed of doing. I dreamed of doing it with Joe and we did to a certain extent and now, it's lovely, I mean both of my kids are here and they're enjoying it as much as I am."
His team continues to grow, too, and not just with the influence of Potts, who has clearly enjoyed seeing his colours back in action more regularly in Britain.
"We've got a bit of the mortgage to pay off," said Tizzard. "We may have to put up another barn next year because we've got a few more horses. It's lovely, isn't it? We like people who like me.
"I don't know why it has happened. These horses find me. I just know that this is what I dreamed of."