OSCAR GIVES TIZZARD POIGNANT SUCCESS
Finian's Oscar defied an eight-pound penalty to record a battling two and a quarter length success in the Steel Plate & Sections Novices' Chase over two and a half miles at Cheltenham this afternoon.
The 10/11 favourite looked beaten after eventual runner-up Movewiththetimes jumped to the front at the second last but the five-year-old didn't give up and battled back to hit the front on the run-in.
It was a poignant victory as his owner, Alan Potts, died earlier this week aged 80 and Finian's Oscar's trainer, Colin Tizzard, was quick to pay tribute to both horse and owner.
"He's showed it all there really," said Tizzard.
"It was a slowly run two-and-a-half-mile race and, going to the last, we all thought he was beat. However, Bryan (Cooper - jockey) was very positive on him today and he found plenty on the run-in.
"He's a class horse. To win this for Alan, who passed away on Sunday, was great. There's a fair bit of Alan in this horse to be fair as, when push comes to shove, he keeps finding more and never gives in.
"This is as nice a horse as we've had for a while because he races behind the bridle. By that I mean that you need to ask for a bit but, when you ask, he finds.
"You forget that he's only five-years-old and to give eight pounds to some decent horses, it's a good performance. It was only this time last year that he's won his point to point.
"We also saw something today that we haven't seen before in that he could be a two miler. A strongly run two miles could be right up his street come March. We'll learn more as the season goes on but he's been very professional today."
OSCAR'S WIN FITTING MEMORIAL FOR POTTS
The Colin Tizzard-trained Finian's Oscar was a highly popular winner of the Steel Plate and Sections Novices' Chase after the death of his owner Alan Potts earlier in the week.
The Oscar five-year-old, winner of two Grade One hurdles last season, was the 10/11 favourite to take this race - his second outing over fences - and produced an impressive, battling performance to beat 4/1 shot Movewiththetimes by two and a quarter lengths.
Finian's Oscar was ridden by Bryan Cooper, who said: "I was very happy - he got the wake-up call he probably needed. He's won his races easily before and today he had to learn to sprint. I knew Barry [Geraghty, riding Movewiththetimes] was going to sit and wait to pounce. I thought what Finian's Oscar found between the second-last, the last and the line was very impressive. He was very long at the last fence and sprinted. He only does what he has to do - he's an idle horse - but sometimes they are the best ones.
"He's got lots of guts - I really gunned him at the last and for his second run over fences, the speed he was going, he could have easily put down, but he didn't. He was long and quick, and he's obviously got a big engine.
"Everybody said his jumping wasn't great at Chepstow, but for the speed they went that day and the effort he put in, I thought he was good. And horses do make mistakes - it's all a learning curve. He's a baby, he's only five. But when it mattered today he put it away, and that's what matters for me."
Commenting on the loss of Alan Potts, whose wife Ann, with whom Alan shared ownership of their horses, died in the summer, Cooper said: "It was very sad. I was actually at Colin [Tizzard]'s on Tuesday morning and we schooled this lad and plenty others. I wasn't half an hour down the road going back to the airport and Joe [Tizzard] called me to say what had happened.
"He is going to be a big loss to our game because he was a big spender and he loved these good horses. It's a pity that he is not here today but I am sure that he is looking down on us. I am very grateful to be riding horses of this quality. Unfortunately, things have dried up a little bit for me in Ireland and it is very good to be able to get on these good horses - they are not easy to come by. I am used to riding them and hope that I can continue riding them."
Cooper ended up a barren spell - his previous winner had come on Finian's Oscar at Chepstow in October.
2.25pm Steel Plate & Sections Novices' Chase
1 FINIAN'S OSCAR (Ann & Alan Potts Limited) Colin Tizzard 5-11-10 Bryan Cooper 10/11 Fav
2 Movewiththetimes (J P McManus) Paul Nicholls 6-11-02 Barry Geraghty 4/1
3 Coo Star Sivola (Babbit Racing) Nick Williams 5-11-02 Lizzie Kelly 12/1
Distances: 2¼, 4
Tote Win: £1.60 Exacta: £4.60
TIMES MOVING ON UP
Paul Nicholls was pleased with the performance of Movewiththetimes (4/1) who was a game second to the 10/11 favourite Finian's Oscar in the Steel Plate And Sections Novices' Chase.
Held up early on in the extended two and a half-mile contest under Barry Geraghty, the six-year-old son of Presenting took the lead approaching the final fence but was reeled in by Colin Tizzard's charge, who rallied gamely under Bryan Cooper.
12/1 chance Coo Star Sivola, trained by Nick Williams, was a further four lengths back in third.
Ditcheat handler Nicholls said: "He did everything well today. He travelled well, jumped well and has just got beaten by the better horse on the day.
"He has run a really good race and perhaps a more galloping track would suit him a bit better."
Jockey Barry Geraghty said: "He jumped better today and found a really nice rhythm. He is versatile enough with regards to the trip but the winner is the real deal."