Tizzard charge to recapture best form
The top-class schedule over the Christmas period starts at Ascot this afternoon and the Grade 2 Mitie Noel Novices' Chase is the centrepiece contest.
All eyes will be on FINIAN'S OSCAR who is looking to bounce back to winning ways. Colin Tizzard thinks the world of his son of Oscar and he is stepping his charge back up in trip to 2m 5f, which will suit the gelding significantly. Finian's Oscar was an impressive novice hurdler last term and delivered a dominant performance to win the Mersey Novices' Hurdle at Aintree. Chasing has always been the aim for the five-year-old, though, and his debut over fences at Chepstow was foot perfect and he cruised to an 11-length success. Tizzard's charge made a blunder at the first fence on his second chase start in the Steel Plate And Sections Novices' Chase at Cheltenham yet he and jockey Bryan Cooper remained composed and Finian's Oscar motored up the Prestbury Park hill to win by two-and-a-quarter lengths. Given he needed almost every yard in that success, it was somewhat surprising connections dropped the gelding back in trip for the Henry VIII Novices' Chase at Sandown earlier this month. The stiff jumping test over two miles didn't suit Finian's Oscar's attributes and he finished a 61-length third. However, Tizzard should have learned from that mistake and will expect a much better performance. Finian's Oscar enjoys cut in the ground and the gelding shows an 89% better than expected strike rate on soft or heavy.
Paul Nicholls won the affair last year with his classy chaser Politologue and will be hoping for a repeat performance with DOLOS. The four-year-old is getting weight for age and has the scope to improve after just one chase start. Dolos earned an official rating of 135 over hurdles but is bred to thrive over larger obstacles. He made his chase debut at Ascot last time and his effort was plenty impressive. Although Sizing Tennesse's fall left Dolos to go clear, Harry Cobden always looked confident on board the son of Kapgarde and the gelding cruised to a 29-length success. Dolos tops BTO+ ratings going into the race and jockey Sam Twiston-Davies shows a 51% better than expected win rate over the course and distance.
The final runner in the small but competitive contest is BENATAR. Gary Moore's charge was defeated by Finian's Oscar at Aintree but has improved for fences and looks a different beast. The son of Beneficial displayed his inexperience on his chase debut at Ascot last month but still battled to a three-and-three-quarter length success. However, Benatar gained a great education from that effort and showed his class at Plumpton last time to dispatch Keeper Hill, a subsequent Grade 2 winner, by nine lengths. That form is rock solid and arguably the strongest heading into the Mitie Noel. Benatar already has a course and distance victory under his belt and Moore and his son, Jamie, boast a 129% better than expected strike rate when teaming up at the Berkshire venue.