After all the hype and expectation things did not quite pan out for Colin Tizzard at Cheltenham but he left Aintree on Friday on cloud nine following a treble courtesy of Pingshou, Fox Norton and Ultragold.
His first two were welcome high- profile winners for big-spending owners Alan and Anne Potts, but his third winner, the 50-1 shot Ultragold in the Randox Health Topham Chase will have given him as much pleasure as any this season given that it was Harry Cobden’s first ride over the famous fences.
His relationship with the jockey is almost like that of father and son. “I hunted alongside him when he was a boy,” said Tizzard. “I was thinking three out, ‘sit still, Harry,’ and he did. He’s got a brain. I enjoyed that and I expect his mum and dad did, too. Harry’s always been around, he’s teaching my grandson to ride in pony races now and he rides Harry’s old pony.”
Cobden, who rides Just A Par in Saturday’s National, said he had fancied Ultragold despite his price. “He ran well last time,” he said. “He jumps well and he had a light weight. He jumped like a buck.”
Fox Norton, an expensive autumn purchase, came closest to giving Tizzard a winner at Cheltenham when just failing to catch Special Tiara in the Champion Chase, but he relished the two and a half miles of the JLT Melling Chase and Tizzard believes he will go even further next season.
After a couple of untidy jumps early on – Potts’s jockey Robbie Power put it down to getting to know the horse – he landed in front at the second last and galloped six lengths clear of Sub Lieutenant. If Might Bite was the villain, albeit a winning one at Cheltenham, he was the hero at Aintree yesterday when he beat his old sparring partner, Whisper, by two lengths to win the Betway Mildmay Novice Chase.
Nicky Henderson’s eight-year-old was on his best behaviour and, for a horse whose jumping has been labelled “dodgy,”, it was his jumping, particularly the long one he gave Nico de Boinville at the last, which sealed victory. After a one-two in Thursday’s Aintree Hurdle and a one-two here, Nicky Henderson is back in the driving seat for the trainers’ title.
“Left or right, up and down or flat, he can handle any track and he can even jump the last well if he wants,” said the trainer. “But how he was going at Kempton (when he fell at the last) makes you think the King George with one run before will be the aim next season.
“Whisper probably stepped up today and Davy Russell was very clever on him, he wasn’t going to come up Nico’s right and help him.”