Ben Linfoot: Tizz the season?
Ben Linfoot talks about the shifts in power in the British and Irish trainers' championships, The Young Master, and Charlie Deutsch in this week's column.
Colin Tizzard: Another stellar Saturday at Newbury
Sizzling Tizz the big cheese
These are exciting times at Venn Farm.
And in a season that's been full of good Saturdays for Colin Tizzard, this latest Saturday, Hennessy Saturday, was an exceptional one.
It was 'only' a near-27/1 treble he recorded at Newbury, the inverted commas made necessary by the monstrous 41,276/1 six-timer Gordon Elliott slotted home at Navan a day later, but the individual components, particularly two of the three, ensured this was a momentous day.
Leg one was Thistlecrack. A movie star of a racehorse who screams Oscar winner. His previous flick, at Cheltenham, was part-drama, part-thriller, but this was more Gone With The Wind than Rear Window.
"I don't think it gets any better than that," said Tizzard afterwards, clearly delighted with this flawless display, as you would be. Just two weeks on from a less-than-convincing round of jumping at Cheltenham, this was great to see. It was the way he did it.
Leg two was Native River. Hennessy. A Grade One-winning novice chaser, off a mark in the 150s, with a highly encouraging reappearance over hurdles under his belt. Well backed, too, from 11/2 into 7/2 before the off.
He jumped and galloped and found loads for champion jockey Richard Johnson. After jumping the last it looked like it might be a rout, but then a flying-at-the-death Carole's Destrier made it a race. Native River, idling, found more when he needed to.
Leg three was Ultragold. A horse with a mere supporting role compared to his A-list stablemates. But even his victory wasn't without drama, a shuddering blunder two out looking to hand the race to Parsnip Pete, before Ultragold remembered he was playing for Team Tizzard, a seemingly unstoppable force.
He rallied and rallied and got there, just in the nick of time.
Yes, these are exciting times at Venn Farm.
Gold Cup favourite. Gold Cup second favourite. Gold Cup seventh favourite. King George favourite. King George second favourite. Queen Mother Champion Chase second favourite. More immediately, Becher Chase third favourite.
Not bad for a dairy farmer who has milked cows for a quarter of a century. Asked on Saturday about his upturn in fortunes, Tizzard cited an upgrade in his stables as the key reason for his golden streak.
"We have some great facilities now which you need and we don't try to make it happen so much now, we let it happen," he said. "It's more me putting a handbrake on myself."
With the handbrake on, Tizzard is up to second in the trainers' championship. Still the best part of £160,000 shy of Paul Nicholls' leading total. But you sense a shift in power here. It's been building all season, yet it went up a gear on Saturday.
Nicholls has been champion trainer nine of the last ten years. He won't let his title go without a fight. And he is still 1/5 to make it 10 out of 11. Yet if the baton is passed, from Nicholls to Tizzard, it won't have to travel far in a small part of south-west England.
Before Nicholls' domination began, when he was building up his business, Joe Tizzard – Colin's son and assistant and rider of Cue Card before he retired – was his stable jockey. The most high-profile success for the partnership was when they teamed up with Flagship Uberalles in the 1999 Arkle.
It's not the only link between the two yards. Near neighbours, well, just 16 miles separates Ditcheat from Milborne Port. Tizzard's milk goes to Paul Barber's, Nicholls' landlord, for cheese.
But Tizzard isn't just milking cows at the moment. He's milking a fair portion of Saturday prizemoney too. That's what wins trainers' championships, as Nicholls knows all too well. He's been the master of that for the last decade.
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It won't be easy for Tizzard. He'll need to keep this momentum going and he could do without setbacks of the like that has kept Fox Norton away from the Tingle Creek.
A Tizzard-shaped shadow has been cast over Nicholls these last few weeks, though. And the Ditcheat handler won't need any reminding that he's not the only big cheese in the West Country these days.
Meanwhile, over in Ireland…
Things aren't looking too shabby at Cullentra House, either.
And if the Nicholls v Tizzard narrative is set to be a common theme throughout the British jumps season, then Willie Mullins v Gordon Elliott is going to be just as compelling in Ireland.
The two battles have their similarities. Mullins, like Nicholls, has been champion trainer in his country for nine of the last ten years. Elliott, like Tizzard, has benefitted from an influx of talented new horseflesh from a high-profile owner. Elliott is a younger man than Tizzard, but both are enjoying the fruits of top-notch, brand new, shiny, modern, facilities. Both are self-made men. Both seemed to fall into training horses almost by chance. Both are at the peak of their powers.
Perhaps the burning ambition to be champion trainer isn't as apparent in the laid-back Tizzard as it is in Elliott. He's made no secret of his desire to be the best. Those horses he received from Gigginstown and Mullins' are helping and his numbers year-on-year have just been staggering.
In 2007, he hadn't trained a winner in his home country, but, okay, give him his dues, he did win the Aintree Grand National with Silver Birch! In 2008 he had six winners in Ireland, in 2009 it was 14. A year later it was 26, then 62.
Things plateaued momentarily after that winners-wise, but his total prize-money increased towards the €1million mark. In 2015, he had 92 winners and broke that prize-money barrier with earnings of €1.5million. Last season, he had 123 winners for nearly €2.6million. This season, he's going to smash that personal best. He's had 114 winners already for €1.9million and Mullins is half a million Euros behind.
On Sunday, at Navan, his local track, it was like a celebration of his meteoric rise. He saddled 25 runners, with 11 (eleven) in the Troytown alone. Seven races and he won six of them. Over €110,000 in winning prizemoney and those accumulative odds are worth repeating again – 41,276/1. Incredible, even taking into account his large squad for the day.
That Mullins has won €1.4million without seemingly unleashing a stable star yet is telling, but Elliott's army don't look like relenting anytime soon.
As the odds suggest – 4/9 Mullins, 13/8 Elliott – this battle is very much on, and it adds a welcome layer of intrigue to the season, considering the procession the title charge had become for the Closutton maestro over the last decade.
Magnificent seven for super Sam?
Looking ahead to this weekend there will be more than a Tingle of excitement if Douvan turns up at Sandown, while the National fences are dusted off for the first time this season at Aintree.
The Betfred Becher Chase is the highlight in Liverpool and there's no more intriguing runner than The Young Master, trained by Neil Mulholland.
Mulholland advertised his abilities in the top staying handicaps again on Saturday when his Carole's Destrier came within half-a-length of landing the Hennessy, the horse having already captured the London National over 3m5f last season.
Stablemate The Druids Nephew won the Ultima Business Solutions Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in 2015, before falling when going well five out in the following month's Grand National, too.
And Southfield Royale, fourth in the four-miler last season, is going to be one to watch off a mark of 147 when he eventually reappears, especially considering how well his Cheltenham form is working out.
The Young Master, though, could be the most exciting of the lot. Bought by his new owners specifically for a crack at the Grand National, this is his first step on the road to the big one and his first sight at the famous Aintree spruce.
We last saw The Young Master winning the bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown in April. That was only a short-head success, but considering the prize it still looks a lenient bit of handicapping that saw him rise just 2lb in the weights.
This all gives his amateur jockey, Sam Waley-Cohen, another fine chance of adding to his exemplary record over the National fences.
He's never won the big one – Oscar Time's second and fourth were the closest he's come in that race – but he has won six times over the silver birch; in the Fox Hunter's three times (Katarino 2005, 2006 and Warne 2014), in the Topham twice (Liberthine 2006 and Rajdhani Express 2015) and in Saturday's race, the Becher, once, on the aforementioned Oscar Time a couple of years ago.
With Mulholland in fine fettle and The Young Master perfectly capable after a break, it would be no surprise to see Waley-Cohen complete his own magnificent seven over the famous fences this weekend.
Deutsch to bank December profits
Finally, December could be the month when it all comes together for 5lb claimer Charlie Deutsch.
The stats reveal that the 20-year-old jockey has only ridden two winners from 25 rides this season, a figure reflective of the slow start to the campaign made by Venetia Williams, his principal supporter.
A dry autumn can be blamed for Williams' lack of runners, but she's hitting her stride now the wet weather is arriving and Otago Trail's Rehearsal Chase romp on Saturday was her fifth winner in 10 days (as an aside, it was great to see Liam Treadwell bounce back from a lengthy spell on the sidelines with that winner).
That's all good news for Deutsch, who should get plenty of chances in the coming weeks and he's well capable of taking them judging by some of his rides recently.
Though he hasn't been firing in the winners, he has been consistently good and I loved the nous and awareness he showed to try and nick the Gerry Feilden aboard 33/1 chance Makethedifference on Saturday.
This horse was 5lb out of the handicap and had no right to get anywhere near them on form, but a proactive ride, combined with a first-time visor, almost saw him steal a decent prize from the front end. The pair were clear in the home straight, were matched at 1.45 in-running on Betfair, and were only caught for first and then second in the final furlong.
The stats also show December has been a kind month to Deutsch the last few years. In 2014 and 2015 combined he rode six winners from 35 rides at a healthy 17 per cent. I reckon he can better those numbers in the coming weeks. A choice ride on Aso at Cheltenham could give substance to that data too.
One thing is for certain, if he keeps on riding with enterprise like he did in the Gerry Feilden, the rewards will come.
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