Joe Tizzard has praised the creation of the Unibet Middle Distance Veterans’ Chase Series insisting it ticks a ‘lot of boxes’ for Le Ligerien, who will bid to double his tally of victories in this season’s series on the opening day of the Christmas Meeting at Cheltenham on Friday (December 15th).
The Milborne Port handler hopes the 10-year-old, who is owned by his wife Rachel’s uncle David Churches, can allow him to toast more glory at the track in the second race of the series which was created by Unibet earlier this season in a five-year deal with The Jockey Club.
Le Ligerien has been out of luck in his two previous visits to Cheltenham but Tizzard feels the extended two-and-a-half-mile test represents a good chance for the Turgeon gelding to add a victory at the track to his CV and move closer to appearing in the series finale at Haydock Park in March.
Tizzard said: “He has been a cracking horse for the yard as he has won four races in under 12 months for us, and this series ticks a lot of boxes for him.
“Life doesn’t get any easier for him as his mark is creeping up, but this is a good place to go for him as it is better taking on horses of a similar age rather than a field full of up-and-coming youngsters.
“You only have to see how competitive the three-mile series is and Unibet have done a good job spreading this out over five years as I’m sure it will become as popular.
“Rachel’s uncle owns Le Ligerien and it would be lovely to get him a winner here, but it doesn’t matter who I train for as I treat all my owners the same.
“Most of the family are likely to be at Cheltenham on Friday and every winner you have at Cheltenham is a special moment.”
Le Ligerien pulled up on his seasonal return switched back to hurdles at Chepstow. However Tizzard was optimistic he would leave that effort behind, which he duly did on his next start when running out a seven and a half lengths winner in the opening leg of the series at Kempton Park last month.
Tizzard said: “I ran few horses at that Chepstow meeting in October and several pulled up in that heavy ground. It seemed like they needed a run.
“As he has got older he does like to bounce off the ground, but the softer ground here shouldn’t be a problem as he has won on soft before.
“Whether he is better around an extended two and a half miles at Kempton or an extended two and a half miles around Cheltenham we will see. He is already qualified for the final, but this is another good pot for him to go for.”
Latest Unibet odds for Friday’s race:
3-1 Le Ligerien
5-1 Storm Control
15-2 Top Ville Ben, Up Helly Aa King, Go Steady
9-1 Lord Du Mesnil
10-1 Sam Brown
12-1 Duc De Beauchene
Unibet Middle Distance Veterans’ Chase Series
13/11/2023 Kempton Park – won by Le Ligerien
19/01/2024 Market Rasen
18/03/2024 Kempton Park
30/03/2024 Haydock (Final)
*Plus a minimum of one other qualifying race
Later on the card, stablemate Gyenyame will bid to go one better than on his previous visit to the track when stepped up to three miles for the first time in the Citipost Handicap Hurdle.
Tizzard added: “It was a cracking run the last day behind Springwell Bay. He is an improving young horse that has come in from the Flat and he seems to be getting better with every run.
“He stayed on very well the last day so going up in trip should suit him and he has got a nice weight on his back.”