Colin and Joe Tizzard will hold out for soft ground as they make early plans for their ever-popular 2018 Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Native River.
Native River has contested many of the most prestigious races in the staying division over the last few seasons, and was most recently seen finishing third in the Grade One Betway Bowl at Aintree in April.
The 11-year-old will be selectively campaigned this season and will run only on his preferred softer going.
Next month’s Betfair Chase at Haydock could be his starting point, a race in which he finished second in 2018 and one the Tizzards have also won four times.
“The Betfair Chase is a race we’ve had a lot of success in, with Cue Card and Lostintranslation,” said Joe Tizzard, assistant trainer to his father Colin.
“I’m hoping it will soften up so we can start there with Native River.
“He’s definitely on song – he’s been slightly held up in previous seasons, because it dried up at Cheltenham. But this year he’s on song, so hopefully we’ll get some soft ground.”
Native River showed that age was not eroding his ability when taking the Grade Two Cotswold Chase by nine and a half lengths in February when the race was moved to Sandown and run on heavy ground.
Tizzard added: “As he’s got older, he’s become more ground dependant – he’s in beautiful form, but what we won’t do is run him in the wrong conditions.
“We’ll make sure he’s got his ground – and as we saw, when he won the Cotswold Chase, when he’s got his conditions he’s still a very talented horse.”
Lostintranslation was never able to hit his stride last season when either well-beaten or pulled up in four runs. The Tizzard team have not discovered exactly why – but the Grade One winner is back in fine form at home, having undergone a third wind operation over the summer.
An entry has been made for the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury, but connections are open-minded as to where to start and will wait to ensure he is perfectly ready before running him.
“He’s really well – it was a difficult season with him last year,” said Tizzard.
“We tried, we ran every test and never really got to the bottom of why he wasn’t finishing his races.
“He’s had a full hobday wind operation through the summer. He looks a million dollars at the moment – we schooled him last week, and he looks well.
“We’re quite fluid on where he’s going to start. We want him to be 100 per cent beforehand – I made the entry for the Ladbrokes with him, because he’s dropped to 162.
“He’s run very well around Newbury before, or there’s Haydock or the Many Clouds (at Aintree).
“We want to get him away a couple of times to make sure he is bang on and we’re getting him right.
“He’s a horse that we felt, after he was third in the Gold Cup (in 2020), was going to be very competitive – and it just didn’t work out last year.
“At home he’s showing all the signs that he’s definitely still got it in there – we certainly haven’t written him off yet.”
Elegant Escape is another horse ready to make a comeback this season, having been out of action since his run in the 2020 Gold Cup.
“Elegant Escape is back,” said Tizzard.
“He missed last season through a tiny leg injury, and we plan are for him to potentially have a spin over hurdles at Cheltenham next month before heading to the Becher Chase at Aintree, with the Grand National being his main target.”
By the time the Grand National rolls round in April, the name on the Venn Farm licence may well be Joe’s rather than Colin’s, with a handing over of the reins from father to son still planned.
The process is a lengthy one, however, and if the necessary permissions are not granted by Christmas then Colin Tizzard may remain the name on the racecard until next season.
“I’ve done all my courses now and I’m fully qualified – the licensing application just takes a bit longer than I thought,” said Joe.
“At the end of the day nothing will change back here – dad will still be up here every morning, and the name on the business will just change from Colin to Joe.
“He reminds me that he is still the boss quite often!
“From our point of view, it doesn’t make any difference. If it becomes nearly Christmas before we can change, it makes more sense to run this season as it is and then at the start of next season swap it over.”