Colin Tizzard has now won the Old Roan Chase, the Shloer Chase, the Betfair Chase, the Hennessy Gold Cup, the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase (Feltham), the King George VI Chase, the Welsh Grand National and the Tolworth Novices’ Hurdle this season, as well as another Grade 2 and two further Grade 3s. Tizzard’s latest big success, in the Grade 1 Tolworth at Sandown last Saturday, saw the proper introduction of yet another star of Venn Farm in the shape of Finian’s Oscar (h142P from h128P), who’d made his successful Rules debut in a Hereford novice over much further just 19 days earlier. It's the norm for the Tolworth to attract a small-but-select field and that was once again the case with just six runners lining up, but the cream certainly rose to the top as the well-backed Finian’s Oscar won by five lengths from second favourite Capitaine (now h141; has lost his ‘p’), who was in turn clear of the rest. It was a steadily-run affair, with the pace set by the eventual third Chalonnial (still h130p), which meant the overall time was only slightly faster than that clocked by the juveniles in the opening race earlier on—admittedly in the first race on the card (the ground at Sandown was soft)—but Finian’s Oscar stamped his authority sharply in earnest, even acknowledging that it would have been more of a contest but for Capitaine making a hash of the second last. The bare form is rated slightly lower than the five-year standards for the race—Yorkhill ran to 148 when winning in 2016, while L’Ami Serge ran to 158 the year before (both on heavy going)—but there's no question that Finian's Oscar has a big future.
The listed mares’ hurdle earlier on the card went to joint favourite Lifeboat Mona (h138p)who progressed again to overcome the rise in class in what looked a very useful renewal. This win adds to an already impressive strike rate for the seven-year-old, who’s clearly very talented, likeable and versatile. There's still more improvement in Lifeboat Mona and the Mares' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival will surely be targeted (for reference, Vroum Vroum Mag ran to 136 when winning that race in 2016). Runner-up Midnight Jazz (h134) is having an excellent campaign, running consistently well and she'll continue to give a good account, while the third Briery Queen (h139p) had no easy task under a 4-lb penalty in the toughest race she's contested yet (despite starting as the other joint favourite) and ran right up to her previous best.
The veterans’ handicap chase final was won by the joint-oldest horse in the field, Pete The Feat. Racing from his lowest mark since his last win all the way back in December 2012, Pete The Feat took advantage at the right time, landing this valuable prize with a game performance. He’s now rated c129 from c127? and will race on with the intention of defending his crown next year. The 2014 Ryanair Chase winner Dynaste, however, was retired after finishing seventh of the 12 finishers; he ends his career rated c144, having been c171 in his pomp. Runner-up Theatrical Star has been given a chance by the handicapper, similar to Pete The Feat in that he was racing from his lowest mark over fences for almost four years, and he ran right up to his mark of c130x, while the third Loose Chips, who goes well at Sandown, nudged his rating from c137 to c138.
The other Grade 1 of the weekend took place at Naas on Sunday, namely the Lawlor’s Hotel Novices’ Hurdle. It was won by Death Duty who was already the highest-rated novice hurdler going in to the race on h151p, and is still a horse to view very positively despite his rating being tweaked to h149p. Death Duty maintained his unbeaten record over hurdles, but he was being tested when Augusta Kate—who had just ranged upsides—fell at the last. It’s difficult to say with conviction who’d have won had they both stood up, but Death Duty was pulling out plenty on the run-in, and the demands of the Albert Bartlett are likely to suit him ideally at the Festival (his trainer Gordon Elliot suggested as much after the race). He’ll obviously head to Cheltenham with a leading chance. Augusta Kate has been credited with plenty of improvement and is now rated h142p. Augusta Kate’s stablemate Turcagua improved further himself in second (h135p, though he was booked for third place before the mare’s late departure) and there’s even better still to come in all likelihood, still room for improvement in his own jumping.
It’s also worth mentioning the novice chase on the card at Naas. Each of the four runners were rated at least 140 over fences going into the race and the winner Some Plan (c145p from c142p) overcame his status as outsider of the field to win by five and a half lengths. He wasted no time getting back on track after his fall at Cheltenham, producing a polished performance as he ran to a borderline smart level, and is well worth his place back at a higher level. Runner-up Road To Respect (c138) ran at least as well as on his previous start and is clearly a useful chaser, but he was put in his place by the winner and seems likely to prove vulnerable to less exposed/improving rivals. Stone Hard (c136+) ran no sort of race, with the drop back in trip only a side issue; his record already shows that he seems prone to the odd poor effort for whatever reason. The other runner was the odds-on American Tom (c142p) who had created a good impression on his chasing debut and was clearly not 100% on the day here, already struggling when falling heavily at the seventh fence; he was reported to be coughing post-race.