Colin Tizzard believes Mister Malarky deserves a crack at the RSA Insurance Novices’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.
The six-year-old dominated his rivals in a Newbury handicap on his penultimate start, before stepping into Grade Two novice company to land the Reynoldstown at Ascot earlier this month.
Tizzard initially suggested the National Hunt Chase might be the more likely Festival target for his charge, but he is now favouring running him at the top level in the RSA.
Speaking at a press morning at his Dorset base, Tizzard said: “He has been a revelation over fences. He is now rated 148 and he is good enough to run in an RSA.
“Robbie Power thought he was flat out at Ascot, but the times were fast. It was good ground there, but hopefully the ground won’t be as quick as that at Cheltenham. He does jump very well, and he is a thorough stayer.
“At the Cheltenham Festival, all the big Irish amateur jockeys will be riding for Ireland (in the National Hunt Chase). They are like ‘professional amateurs’ – whereas in England, they are definitely amateurs.
“We had the same conversation when Native River was going to Cheltenham as a novice. We thought he was a slow and had to go in the four-miler.
“Native River has gone on to win a Gold Cup, so the four-miler is not an easier race. I think some very good horses will run in the four-miler, that will be good three-milers next year.”
Tizzard’s other leading novice chaser is Lostintranslation.
He landed the Dipper Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day before the runner-up that day – Defi Du Seuil – reversed the form in the Scilly Isles at Sandown.
Tizzard said: “He is one of the favourites for the JLT (Novices’ Chase). I keep thinking I should have had him in the RSA – but when the entries went he was so good over two-and-a-half, so it’s fine.
“He was second to Defi Du Seuil last time, and that is lovely form. He is just a lovely chaser, and he has got form round Cheltenham.
“They will go a strong pace, and he can jump off pretty handy.
“You have only got to look at him to see he is a big, strong horse – and whatever we do this year we can have him as a Gold Cup horse next year. That is what I think he is.
“He has got more stamina than speed. Barry Geraghty sat behind us at Sandown and just did us for speed from the last. That won’t happen at Cheltenham, where there will be twice as much pace on – so I hope the stamina will kick in even more.”
The Grand National is the main target for Ultragold – who already has winning form over the famous Aintree fences, having landed the Topham Chase in each of the last two seasons.
He is set to warm up for the world’s most famous steeplechase by running in the Glenfarclas Chase at the Festival.
“We’ve had this brainwave this week that we might run him in the cross-country chase,” said Tizzard.
“It seemed a good prep race for the National for one of the others (winner Tiger Roll) last year!
“We ran him at Cheltenham the last two or three years – and although he hasn’t won, he has done quite well, and it has been a good prep for Aintree.
“He is in the Ultima, but he will be put in the cross country. We will school him, but I just think he will have a better chance of winning the cross-country than he would the Ultima.
“Then we will run him in the Grand National. He is in the Topham – but if he gets in, he will go for the National.”
Tizzard believes Fox Norton has a live chance in the Ryanair Chase.
The nine-year-old chased home Altior in the Clarence House Chase at Ascot on his return from more than a year on the sidelines, before finishing third behind the hugely impressive Cyrname in the Ascot Chase.
“He is slipping under the radar a little bit. I thought he ran a nice race at Ascot the other day,” said Tizzard.
“He just jumped a bit flat. Sometimes he has a bit of back trouble, so he had to have a bit of medication in his pelvis.
“He will go for the Ryanair, but we would leave him in the Queen Mother as well. We very nearly won the Champion Chase the year before, when Douvan never ran his race and frightened everyone off, so we will keep the door open.
“He was much calmer last time and ran a proper race. I think he is more of a two and a half miler, but the Champion Chase is about pace and stamina kicking in at the end of that race. Ground-wise, I think he is better on softer ground.”