Dorset dairy farmer turned trainer Colin Tizzard first took out a full training licence in 1998, but in the two decades since has gone from strength to strength and, in 2018, enjoyed his best season yet, numerically, with 1979 winners.
Tizzard saddled his first Cheltenham Festival winner, Cue Card, in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper in 2010. A 40/1 outsider on that occasion, Cue Card became a flag bearer for the yard in subsequent seasons. He finished fourth, when favourite, behind Al Ferof in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in 2011, clear second behind impressive winner Sprinter Sacre in the Arkle Challenge Trophy in 2012 and made all to beat First Lieutenant by 9 lengths in the Ryanair Chase in 2013. He twice fell in the Cheltenham Gold Cup when well fancied, including in 2016, when chasing a £1 million Triple Crown bonus, having already won the Betfair Chase at Haydock and the King George VI Chase at Kempton.
However, on the previous day, Tizzard had already saddled Thistlecrack to a facile, 7-length win over Alpha Des Obeaux and ten other rivals in the Stayers’ Hurdle. Afterwards,Tizzard spoke of not having to be part of a “big battalion” to find a superstar and, two years later, he appeared to have found another when Native River, ridden by Richard Johnson, fought off a determined challenge by eventual runner-up, Might Bite, to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Heading into the final day of the 2018 Cheltenham Festival, Tizzard had drawn a blank at the meeting and seen the ever popular Cue Card pulled up in what turned out to be his final race in the Ryanair Chase the previous day. However, Kilbricken Storm caused a 33-1 upset when winning the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle and, 40 minutes later, Native River provided a fairytale ending to the week and, in so doing, became his seventh Cheltenham Festival winner.