National Hunt trainer Colin Tizzard has won just about everything there is to win in the sport. He boasts two victories in the King George VI Chase, as well as triumphs in the Aintree Hurdle, the Ryanair Chase and even the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
However, in over 20 years of full-time training, the Grand National has eluded his grasp, and as retirement beckons at the end of the season, the upcoming race presents the final opportunity of landing a victory for the English trainer.
The Betdaq horse racing market is firmly in the favour of Cloth Cap, who at the time of writing is set to line up for starter’s orders as the shortest favourite in over 100 years. But it’s no secret that the market leaders don’t always emerge successful at Aintree, and often horses can win from left of field.
That is exactly what Tizzard will need to happen if he is to land a winner in the four-and-a-quarter-mile race before he calls it quits and passes his license onto his son Joe.
His only shot at victory lies with Mister Malarky. The eight-year-old is around 25/1 at the time of writing. However, the Wendy and Malcolm Hezel-owned horse could be worth a punt as he fits the bill of a true National winner. Mister Malarky has been allocated a handicap of 10-12, which is nestled nicely amongst the perfect weight class, whilst three of the last five winning horses have been aged eight.
That said, outings over three miles are a must if you want to win the National, and Mister Malarky has had his fair share of long distance races this season and throughout his career, including a victory at Ascot in the Good Luck Hollie in SPOTY Silver Cup Handicap Chase back in December, which he was 16/1 to win.
Despite undergoing wind surgery and failing to win in a Handicap Chase at Doncaster, where he finished seventh, and the Close Brothers Handicap Chase at Kempton, where he came home in fourth, since then, Tizzard is still confident that the eight-year-old is a good horse to back at Aintree.
“He was good at Ascot and he’s up to 156 now,” Tizzard said back in January. “He is a thorough stayer and he will be a lovely horse for the Grand National in the spring.”
Elsewhere at the Aintree meeting, Tizzard will be hoping for a final crack at the Betway Bowl as well with Native River set to lead his attack in the Grade 1 race, which will act as the festival’s feature race on day one.
At 11 years of age, Native River is certainly no spring chicken anymore. However, the 2018 Gold Cup winner proved he can still compete with the best horses when he came home in fourth in the Cheltenham showpiece race last month, and Joe Tizzard confirmed that the Bowl will be final race of the season.
“Native River came out of the Gold Cup fine,” Joe said recently. “He knew he’d had a race, but he’s fine now and in full work. The plan is to take him to Aintree for the Bowl, as long as the ground is all right, which I’m sure it will be.
“There’s not a lot of other options for him – he’s not going to go to Punchestown. It will be Aintree and that will be it for the season.”