It is not so long ago that Cue Card was the solitary flag-bearer for Colin Tizzard’s Dorset yard and dairy cows were the big breadwinner, but these days he boasts an embarrassment of riches, not just in the staying chase division but among his novice hurdlers.
Fiddlerontheroof, winner of Saturday’s Unibet Tolworth Hurdle, a tall six-year-old which cost £200,000 at Aintree’s eve of Grand National sale last spring, took a step towards the top of the Venn Farm pecking order when he turned the Grade One into a procession.
Under a typically patient Robbie Power ride, he ghosted into the race round the final bend, landed in front at the second last and powered up the hill to beat the Irish mare, Jeremys Flame and Son of Camas, a good Newbury winner last time, six lengths and 15 lengths. It was a third win in the race for Tizzard in the past four runnings.
With two other smart novice hurdlers, Master Debonair and The Big Breakaway, also in the stable it may present the trainer with a problem in March. “It’s a great headache to have – let’s hope we still have it going into the festival,” Power said. “He’s a big boy. What impressed me most was how he quickened up and put the race to bed when I gave him a squeeze at the second last.
“Nothing else could do that today. I was just looking for a good stride at the last and when you have that much horse underneath you, you usually find one.” Tizzard’s son and assistant, Joe, said the horse will get an entry in both the Supreme – for which he is now 10-1 – and Ballymore Hurdles at Cheltenham and which one he runs in will probably be dependent on the ground.
“He had very good bumper form and we loved the physical model when we saw him at Aintree,” he said. “He’ll definitely jump a fence in the future. I don’t think he’s ground dependent. It wasn’t that soft when he ran at Chepstow [when he was runner-up to Thyme Hill]. We’re not sure of his trip but you have to stay in the Supreme, and he laid up well enough round Wincanton, he just met a good horse there.”
The best finish of the day was provided by jump racing’s version of the seniors’ tour, the Unibet Veterans Handicap Chase Final, in which the 11-year-old Jepeck, the 3-1 favourite, beat the 13-year-olds Regal Flow and Theatre Guide a short-head and a neck.
“When he was second to the subsequent Scottish National winner [Takingrisks] at Carlisle last spring, we planned to come here, but we knew off his handicap mark there wasn’t much to spare,” trainer Anthony Honeyball said. “We were wondering what to do while waiting for this race, so went hurdling and had a lot of fun winning a couple. It’s great to see old horses get the chance of a valuable pot.”
After Palladium, a horse part-owned by his former trainer, Martyn Meade, won the Unibet Casino Juvenile Hurdle, Nicky Henderson confirmed the plan to run Altior at Kempton on Saturday. He has recovered from an abscess on his wither and galloped under Nico de Boinville on Saturday. Both trainer and jockey were happy with the outcome.