Finian’s Oscar strengthens Tizzard’s Festival hand
Tolworth Hurdle winner on course for Cheltenham Veteran Pete The Feat scores in valuable chase
The new year has begun in the same way that the old one finished for Colin Tizzard. The only difference was that in the Grade One he won yesterday, he welcomed a novice hurdler back to the winners’ enclosure rather than a chaser, but success has been busy breeding success down at Venn Farm.
Finian’s Oscar’s future will one day be over fences but the Alan Pottsowned novice hurdler, bought for £250,000 in the autumn, proved five lengths too good for his nearest rival, Capitaine, in the 32Red Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown and relished the testing ground that has been something of a rarity so far this winter.
Though Tizzard admitted he had not expected the five-year-old to win with quite such authority, punters clearly thought he would, sending him off the well-backed 11-10 favourite.
“He’s a beautiful, young horse,” said the trainer. “We didn’t know he would win like that. He’d only won a point-to-point but it was the way he won his novice hurdle at Hereford. We thought why waste another run in a small race?
“He soon went five lengths clear and when he stuttered into the last you slightly wondered if he’d get caught but he kept on. Tom Malone [the bloodstock agent] put him up to us and there were some good people after him. It’s made the game a lot easier for us buying lovely young horses ready to go on. We used have to buy ‘stores’ and wait three years for them.”
He added: “Cheltenham’s where we want to be. Do we need to run again? Probably. I don’t know if he’s a two or two-and-a-half miler but someone will probably tell me.” His Hereford win was over two and three-quarters but yesterday’s was over two and, if Tizzard is looking for advice from the bookmakers then, looking ahead to the Festival, they have Finian’s Oscar at 6-1 for the Neptune but double that for the shorter Supreme.
Going to the last in the day’s most valuable race it looked like Tizzard’s Theatrical Star might win the 32Red Veterans’ Handicap Chase Final but, belying his 13 years, Pete The Feat had nipped through to lead at the Pond fence and Charlie Longsdon’s 20-1 shot showed the determination of a horse half his age to hang on by two lengths, with his stable companion, Loose Chips, in third. But for the veteran series of races Pete The Feat would have been long retired. Instead, with £46,000 to the winner, he was claiming the biggest prize of his career.
“He’s had endless problems,” said Longsdon. “But he’s ridden out by a 70-year-old, Wilf Rayer, and it’s the two old boys together. The horse is a yob and Wilf lets him push him around and get away with murder and its probably why the horse enjoys himself so much.
“We haven’t had a winner since mid-December otherwise I expect he would have been half the price. They’ve been running well and to form but without winning. Loose Chips has also run a brilliant race in third. He had to have three weeks off after his last start and has only been back in work 10 days.”
At just 24, Amy Murphy, Britain’s youngest trainer, is some way off the veteran stage but her career, less than three months old, is already going great guns. She is based in Newmarket and Mercian Prince became her seventh winner so far when taking the 32Red Handicap Chase by two lengths from All Together.
The chaser, owned by her father, Paul, and bred by him in France, could now go to Cheltenham Trials Day at the end of the month for the novices’ handicap chase.
Cheltenham-bound: Finian’s Oscar surprised connections with the ease of his victory in the Grade One Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown