Bob Bishop, the late owner of Cue Card, used to tell a story of how he once went to buy a horse with Colin Tizzard only for the trainer to run into a local dairy farmer and spend the next hour talking to him about his cows instead.
“Colin knows a cow and he knows a horse – he’s got that uncanny knack as far as animals are concerned,” Bishop would go on to the Western Gazette.
But Tizzard is no farmer just playing at being a racehorse trainer. His uncanny knack with horses has never been better showcased than by the remarkable Cue Card, a dual winner at the Cheltenham Festival and winner of the King George VI Chase and Betfair Chase last season.
Indeed, the 2015-16 season was the best Tizzard has ever enjoyed with 50 winners and nearly £1,500,000 in prize-money banked. It is the first time in his 22-year training career the trainer breached the £1m mark. If Cue Card had landed the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March, he would have snared a £1m bonus for the Jockey Club Triple Crown as well. It is a yard go places fast.
Since the arrival of Cue Card on the scene in 2010 there has been a marked upturn in the quality and quantity of horses in Tizzard’s care. He no longer considers himself a dairy farmer and a trainer, but a trainer of 60-plus horses and one aspiring to have one of the leading yards in the entire country.
While Cue Card has been the flagbearer, others have come through showing Tizzard’s stockman’s eye and patience to source and then bring the best out of the horses in his care.
Chief among them is the exciting World Hurdle winner Thistlecrack, the reigning jumps horse of the year, Grade 1-winner Native River and BetBright Chase scorer Theatre Guide.
An upgrading of facilities has also taken place at Tizzard’s Venn Farm in Dorset over the last couple of years with a new barn built up on the hill, offering better ventilation and comfort for his equine superstars than the converted cow sheds where they had previously been housed.
And the investment has not stopped at horses and facilities, with Tizzard’s son Joe, a former top jockey, now assisting his father and Brendan Powell stepping in to take a more prominent riding role over the past couple of seasons. Combined with the experienced heads of Paddy Brennan and Tom Scudamore, Tizzard has ensured his horses are in the best hands on the course. Scudamore has a near 40 per cent strike-rate with the yard over the past five years, while Brennan is riding one winner from every four rides he has for the stable.
Like champion trainer Paul Nicholls, who trains half an hour away, it is chases that are the focus of the Tizzard operation. A keen point-to-point jockey as a young man, Tizzard still supports the sport locally and is always looking to find horses who will make a mark over fences in the long term.
Over the last five seasons he has a 14 per cent strike rate over fences, 88 winners and nearly £2,500,000 in prize-money. All of these areas eclipse what the yard has achieved over hurdles and with the likes of Thistlecrack set to go chasing this is only going to increase further.
In Colin Tizzard, the Coral Champions Club have a trainer with a proven track record of success and who is poised to take the next leap into the big time over the coming seasons.
His ability to source horse, train them to reach their peak and place them to best effect on the course means it is likely to be a profitable association for both owner and trainer.