Racing returned to Wincanton on Thursday 11th March for another competitive seven race card, sponsored by MansionBet.
There was some thrilling action on the track and some unexpected news off of it, as trainer Colin Tizzard announced he is set to retire at the end of the season. We sent Graham Clark to our Somerset course…
TIZZARD SPRINGS A RETIREMENT SURPRISE
It wasn’t a big priced outsider that caused the biggest surprise of the day but Colin Tizzard’s impromptu announcement that he is set to retire from training this year.
The Dorset handler all but confirmed that next week’s Festival™ supporting WellChild is to be his last as a licenced handler, before handing over the reins at Venn Farm to his son and assistant Joe.
He explained: “Joe will be on the licence soon. I don’t fancy Colin and Joe. I’m 65. It won’t change anything - I’ll still argue with him every morning! He deserves to go on as you don’t want to go on too late in life.
“He is doing a good job and it (retirement) was always going to be at 65. I’ve got other things I wouldn’t mind doing. I don’t want to wake up every morning worrying about horses all the time.
“I might want to take the wife away to New Zealand and places like that which I’ve not been able to do as I’ve been doing the horses the last 25 years.
“As soon as he has done his modules (he will be on the licence). He should be on by next season. There is plenty of time over the summer to get it done. There is nothing to sort out, just change one name. It won’t change one iota as Joe is doing more and more. He deserves to have his name at the top.
Tizzard believes The Big Breakaway could be his best chance of a winner at Cheltenham next week and although there won’t be a racing fan on course to celebrate it, no one would begrudge one of Jump Racing’s great characters a final winner on the biggest stage.
BUCKLEY PRAISES “DIFFERENT HORSE” ALMINAR
Jockey Kieren Buckley described Alminar as “a different horse” as he put in a smart round of jumping to open his account for the season in the MansionBet 5 Days Til Cheltmas Handicap Chase at Wincanton.
Having pulled up in two of his three starts this season, including last time out at Chepstow, the Nigel Hawke-trained eight year old appeared to appreciate the return to a sounder surface when getting back to winning ways in the feature 3m 1f contest.
Buckley said: “He has got an inconsistent profile but you can make excuses for each of those runs. He won on heavy at Chepstow around this time last year in a 0-100 race. The step up in class he couldn’t go that speed on heavy ground, as strange as it seems.
“Last time I pulled him up as he gave me no feeling. He was a different horse today. The ground is riding good to soft and it is nice ground. He jumped brilliantly and he saw out the trip really well. I’d imagine we will keep him going through the summer. He is an out and out stayer.”
GO DANTE SETS UP AINTREE VISIT WITH BUMPER WIN
Bumper winner Go Dante set up a potential tilt at next month’s Randox Grand National Festival at Aintree by running out an impressive winner on his debut.
The Olly Murphy-trained five year old defied his inexperience to hit the jackpot at the first time of asking in the Happy 41st Birthday Hazel Rofe Maiden Open National Hunt Flat Race.
Moving well throughout the 1m 7 1/2f prize the even money favourite quickly put matters to bed once sent on by Aidan Coleman, defeating runner-up Kahina Rules by seven and a half lengths.
Murphy said: “He has never been on grass on his life so I was a bit nervous he might be a bit green but he has done everything nicely. I trained his half-sister as well (Angel Of Harlem) who was as tough as old boots. It is lovely to have another good horse for Barbara Hester.
“I’m not sure if we will see him again this season - Aintree might be a tiny possibility but he won’t be running under a penalty anywhere. He is a big raw horse who jumps great. He will be a lovely novice hurdler for next season.”
LLEWELLYN AND WILLIAMS END WAIT FOR A WINNER
Multiple Flat winner Triple Nickle provided trainer Bernard Llewellyn and jockey Robert Williams with their first winner in 161 days after opening her account over obstacles in the MansionBet Preparing For A Merry Cheltmas Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle.
The 9-1 chance won by a length and a half and Williams said: “She had some good form on the Flat. I thought we would ride her a bit more positively as we held her up the last day.
“There wasn’t much of a pace but she likes the soft ground and she had that Flat pace at the end. She was a bit ‘novicey’ at one or two and when she was in front going to the last she was having a right little look about.
“We’ve not had a winner since October so we needed that. We’ve got Flat horses that are going jumping and that heavy ground doesn’t suit, so this time of year they should start winning. We’ve got a nice string of horses to go to war with at their level.”
NOTHING CARELESS ABOUT WHISPER’S CHASING DEBUT
Owner Liz Prowting was given plenty to shout about from the comfort of her own living room when Minella Whisper made his debut over fences a triumphant one by a neck in the Follow @MansionBet This Cheltmas Novices’ Handicap Chase.
Richard Phillips, winning trainer, said of the 15-2 chance: “He jumped super first time out over fences but he is built like a chaser. I was pleased with his run in a jumpers’ bumper at Kempton and that hopefully teed him up for today.
“When the ground changed I was a bit worried but he seemed fine. Daniel (Hiskett) gave him a great ride.
“Liz has had some great horses over the years and you will not find a better owner. She was watching at home and it got quite emotional and they were screaming him home up the straight.”
THIRD TIME LUCKY AS MOON LANDS MAIDEN HURDLE
Garth and Anne Broom will hope the victory of Neon Moon (4-1) in the MansionBet Merry Cheltmas Bet £10 Get £20 Maiden Hurdle is a sign of things to come for their WellChild Cheltenham Gold Cup contender Native River next Friday.
The David Pipe-trained five year old carried the colours of the couple’s Brocade Racing operation to glory by two and a half lengths when making it third time lucky under rules in the 2m 4f contest.
Tom Scudamore, winning rider, said: “He is a horse that we have always liked and he has done that nicely.
“He has had a wind op since his last run. His Southwell run was good but he was a bit disappointing on his last run. He has galloped all the way to the line today though.”