Colin Tizzard 'favouring' Neptune challenge at Cheltenham for Finian's Oscar

Thu 23 Feb 2017

Colin Tizzard admits to being surprised by the progress of Finian's Oscar over hurdles this winter.

The five-year-old may have commanded a hefty price-tag at the sales last year, but he was bought by owners Ann and Alan Potts as a future chaser.

Be that as it may, Finian's Oscar is ante-post favourite for the Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival after winning three on the spin for his new connections.

Tizzard said: "We didn't know he was going to end up favourite for the Neptune when we bought him.

"We thought he might win a couple of novice hurdles and go chasing next year."

Finian's Oscar, who won the Grade One Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown in January, is also entered in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle, but the Dorset handler said: "I expect it will be the Neptune.

"I've asked a lot of people about it. There have been quite a few champion hurdlers that have run in the Neptune in the past then gone back (in distance).

"You can't go to the Neptune thinking you are going to take on slower horses. We've run him over two-miles-five and two miles.

"I'm favouring the Neptune, but I don't know why I am because he is a brother to Finian's Rainbow who was a two-miler.

"They tell me the Neptune is a bit of a stop-start race, but the last half of the race is just as fast as the Supreme."

Tizzard also has high hopes for Royal Vacation, who took full advantage of the last-fence fall of Might Bite in the Kauto Star Novices' Chase at Kempton and will run in the RSA Chase.

He said: "He started off on 127 at the beginning of the year and we were chuffed when he was going to be second to Might Bite. He beat some good horses at Kempton, then he came out at Cheltenham over two and a half miles and won by 15 or 20 lengths.

"He does nothing wrong. Paddy (Brennan) said you have got to go for the RSA and not the National Hunt Chase.

"What he has got in his favour is that we can run him right on the pace knowing he will stay, as I think he will stay four miles.

"He won't have to sit in a bunch with the other novices and get involved in the jumping issues which will occur in a RSA.He can go right from the start really positive and that gives him a chance."

West Approach, a half-brother to Thistlecrack, was a really encouraging third behind Unowhatimeanharry in the Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham in January.

The seven-year-old could renew rivalry with the winner in the Sun Bets Stayers' Hurdle or run in the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle a day later.

Tizzard added: "He is on the up. He wouldn't have to find much to be a big player in the Stayers' Hurdle.

"On the flip side, we didn't run him after Cheltenham last season as we wanted to keep him a novice.It's 50-50 which race he runs in, I'd say."

French import Alary was a talking horse for the Gold Cup earlier in the season until he wilted tamely on his British debut in the Peter Marsh Chase at Haydock and then fell at Exeter.

Tizzard said: "I think Alary will go for the Ryanair Chase.I think he is a live player. He is a man of a horse.We jumped him this week and he never worried about the fact he had a fall."

Fox Norton was a never-nearer second to Altior in the Game Spirit at Newbury and while he also holds an entry in the Ryanair, Tizzard could instead give the seven-year-old the chance to go toe to toe with "machine" Douvan in the Queen Mother Champion Chase.

The trainer said: "We tried to give Altior 5lb, which was an impossible task, and he ran a good second. He didn't jump very well and came back a bit stiff behind and I think he didn't jump so well as he felt it in the race.

"He is a good horse and is fine now. Neil Mulholland (his former trainer) says he is more like a spring ground horse going flat out over two miles. I was leaning towards the Ryanair with him, as I watched the Arkle last year and he took the whole of the Arkle trip to get to third in the end. We are leaving that option open a bit.

"Douvan does look a machine. He is good horse and we shouldn't be afraid of one. It will be left until the five-day stage I would say."

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