The RSA Insurance Novices’ Chase has emerged as the preferred target for Copperhead at next week’s Cheltenham Festival.
Colin Tizzard’s charge is second favourite with most bookmakers for the National Hunt Chase on Tuesday week, but connections are leaning towards bidding for Grade One glory the following afternoon.
The six-year-old has made giant strides since finishing fifth on his chasing debut at Chepstow in October, landing successive handicaps at Wincanton and Newbury before successfully stepping up to Grade Two level in last month’s Reynoldstown Novices’ Chase at Ascot.
Joe Tizzard, assistant to his father, said: “He has been so progressive this season. It was a lovely first run, where he needed it, and then we had a go at handicaps at Wincanton and Newbury, which he won.
“The first time we stepped him up to a Graded race was in the Reynoldstown at Ascot and he improved again. He jumps and stays and is very straightforward and very relaxed.
“We have had a lot of conversations about where we are going to run him, but Dad and I are leaning towards the RSA, and so are the owners. He has got the pace to handle it and if he takes another step forward, he would have a massive chance in it.
“He is not completely finished. With another summer on his back he is going to grow into a serious horse and improve again.”
Despite the likely defection of Copperhead, Tizzard is still set to be represented in the National Hunt Chase, with leading amateur rider Will Biddick booked to partner Lamanver Pippin, who has not been seen since scoring at Chepstow in November.
“He won nicely at Chepstow on his last run then we had a little setback with him, but he is back right,” said Tizzard.
“He went for a gallop at Larkhill last week. He is an out-and-out stayer and is a young horse that is not fully exposed.”
Christmas In April also holds a National Hunt Chase entry, but is more likely to head for the Midlands National at Uttoxeter.
A decision has yet to be made on whether Slate House will join Copperhead in the RSA or drop in trip for the Marsh Novices’ Chase.
The eight-year-old landed the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day, but was disappointingly pulled up on his latest outing in the Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham,
Tizzard said: “A decision hasn’t been made on where he is going to end up. He has got form over two and a half at Cheltenham, but he also won the Kauto Star over three miles.
“We will see what the ground does. If it dries up we might stay over three, or he might drop back to two and a half if we thought the ground was going to be bit slower.”
Dual Grade One-winning hurdler Reserve Tank is bound for the Marsh, having been off the track since suffering an odds-on defeat at Newbury in November.
He could be joined by stablemate Vision Des Flos, who Tizzard described as “a horse with a lot of ability, but difficult to get right”.
Of Reserve Tank, he said: “He could be a slightly forgotten horse. He is a very good horse in the spring.
“Last year we suffered with ulcers all through the winter and we did well to get them right. He ended up with a four timer, including two Grade Ones at Aintree and Punchestown.
“He was a bit fresh at Chepstow when he got beat, then he won the Rising Stars and by the time we got to Newbury, he wasn’t quite right.
“He just doesn’t handle that winter ground nor the cold, but he does come right in the spring.”
One of the big Tizzard hopes in handicaps over fences is Mister Malarky, who heads for the Ultima following his lucrative success in the Betway Handicap Chase at Kempton last month.
“He did it well at Kempton the other weekend. We felt he was in good form going into it and he did it nicely in a competitive race,” said Tizzard.
“He has got good Cheltenham form as he was fourth in the RSA last year. The Ultima is probably one of the most competitive races of the week, but he deserves to take his chance and ticks a lot of boxes.
“He could be a cracking Grand National type for next season.”