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Joe Tizzard is hopeful The Big Breakaway has gleaned enough experience this season to pose a major threat to Monkfish in the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.
Taking on the unbeaten Irish raider – victorious in the Albert Bartlett 12 months ago – is a daunting challenge but one Tizzard is hoping The Big Breakaway is prepared for.
Big price-tag to live up to
Tizzard, assistant trainer to his father Colin, was the man attributed with spotting The Big Breakaway at the Goffs Punchestown Sales two years ago, after which his owners parted with £360,000 to secure the chestnut point-to-point winner.
He landed his first two races over hurdles last season before an honourable fourth in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham behind unbeaten Envoi Allen.
He enjoyed a winning chase bow at Cheltenham in November (3m½f, soft) before surprisingly being defeated at Exeter in December on a shorter trip.
He then finished second to Shan Blue in the Grade 1 Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day, an outing Tizzard feels he’ll have learned from.
“He’s a massively talented horse who’s going to win or be competitive in these big events,” said Tizzard.
“When we went to the Kauto Star (Novices’ Chase), we had to drop him in and go back to basics. Dan Skelton’s horse (Shan Blue) jumped and galloped and got a march on him, and his jumping got found out over the last four or five fences.
“But I also think that Kempton run was what we were looking to do – and we hope that was the making of the horse. He learned more there, and this time we can ride him without making the running, third or fourth, and Cheltenham will suit him better anyway.”
Temptation to run again
Team Tizzard were keen on one more run before Cheltenham but the weather scuppered their plans. An intended outing at Wetherby was lost when the card was abandoned and, while it was a close call, the Reynoldstown Chase at Ascot was simply deemed too close to The Festival.
“It was literally down to the wire whether we ran in the Reynoldstown, and we decided just to save a bit of petrol for Cheltenham,” said Tizzard.
“Will that backfire? Who knows? We’ve done plenty of schooling with him at home – but you can’t beat match practice.
“We hope the Kempton run just taught him more than he perhaps ever learned throughout his career.”
Monkfish the one to fear
The Willie Mullins-trained Monkfish is 3-3 over fences in Ireland this season, including Grade 1 wins at 2m5½f/3m around Leopardstown. He also won the Albert Bartlett at Cheltenham last March with a gutsy staying performance and looks tailor-made for the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase on March 17th.
The Rich Ricci-owned runner is already odds-on to win the Festival contest, but Tizzard is cautioning anyone about writing off The Big Breakaway having plenty to say about that.
“Monkfish has looked amazingly impressive, hasn’t he? But we’re at Cheltenham, so it’s not expected to be easy,” he added.
“I’m a bit biased, because I bought The Big Breakaway – but I think he’s a hugely talented horse.
“I know he’s in a competitive division. But we think an awful lot of him, and I’d be wary of (anyone) writing him off too soon.”