The trend of the National Hunt season so far – the domination of Grade 1 races by Colin Tizzard – kept running into 2017 at Sandown Park on Saturday. The Dorset handler’s young novice hurdler Finian’s Oscar ran out a comfortable winner of the first Grade 1 of the season, the 32Red Tolworth Novices’ Hurdle.
Unbeaten in just one previous start under rules, Finian’s Oscar tracked early leader Chalonnial at only an average pace under Tom O’Brien.
As the six-strong field turned into the home straight, Finian’s Oscar loomed up alongside the leader and hit the front just before two out.
After the flight he shot a good four to five lengths clear, with the Paul Nicholls-trained Capitaine giving closest pursuit on the far side.
Despite not the most fluent jump at the last, the five-year-old maintained a healthy advantage on the run-in taking the two mile prize by five lengths at the winning post.
In the ever familiar Anne and Alan Potts silks, the son of Oscar’s impressive performance follows an easy success in a point-to-point at Portrush last October and a seven length win in a novices’ hurdle at Hereford two months later.
For O’Brien, this victory becomes the second Grade 1 win of his career to date. His first came back in 2007 when he partnered the Peter Bowen-trained gelding Souffleur in the Challow Novices’ Hurdle.
“He’s very special, he was a little bit inexperienced,” reflected O’Brien. “He had a little grab at the second but he kept it together and he’s won well. Obviously you would have to speak to Colin about it but I would imagine the Neptune would suit, he feels like an out-an-out chaser and feels like he would stay.”
Having taken the Betfair Chase, Hennessy Gold Cup and the King George VI Chase in the last few months, Tizzard’s streak at the top continues unabated.
He’s very special, he was a little bit inexperienced
He has already surpassed the £1 million barrier and lies second behind champion trainer Paul Nicholls.
Tizzard said: “He’s only won a point-to-point and a novices’ hurdle at Hereford, but the way he did it at Hereford, why waste him in a little race when you can have a go at this?
“He justified it [the decision] and handled the ground well. He looked in control most of the way and he soon went five lengths clear.”