Finian’s Oscar is to have a breathing operation and be sent back over fences in response to a dismal effort at Cheltenham on Saturday, and plans for a tilt at the Stayers’ Hurdle have been abandoned three weeks after they were announced. The youngster, one of the stars of last season, is now emblematic of the disappointing winter being endured by his trainer, Colin Tizzard, who hopes there is still time to get him back to being a top-class performer by the spring.
“He made a noise, so he’s having his soft palate cauterised,” Tizzard said, when asked to reflect on Finian’s Oscar being pulled up before the final flight in the Cleeve Hurdle. “He was gasping for the last mile.” The horse has now been a beaten favourite three times in a row.
It was an indication of Tizzard’s interest in trying something new with Finian’s Oscar that he sent the horse back over hurdles on Saturday, stepped him up in distance to three miles and put a tongue tie on him for the first time. That tongue tie was an indication that the trainer was already worried about the horse’s breathing, as he now admits: “It’s been coming on a little bit, so he’s booked in tomorrow [for an operation].”
Tizzard feels the horse “might” stay three miles after his operation and on a better surface than the heavy going that prevailed at Cheltenham on Saturday. But, for now, he plans to return Finian’s Oscar to two and a half miles over fences, with the JLT Novice Chase at the Festival as his main target.
“He’ll go back novice chasing now. He’s quite good at that. I said all along, we’ll see if he’s a stayer. This hasn’t proved he is but, with the Stayers Hurdle, you have got to be an ultimate stayer. He’s a bit classy for that, I don’t think he’s a three-miler, flat out.
“This won’t hurt him, having gone back over hurdles for a bit of confidence. We might even give him a little spin next month, back in a novice chase and then go in the two and a half miler at Cheltenham.”
Meanwhile, the jockey Tom Bellamy was relieved to be given no more than a caution after failing a pre-race breath test for alcohol at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day. The rider said at the time that he had had “two or three drinks” on New Year’s Eve but had been in bed before midnight.
“It’s a mistake I’ll learn from and it’ll never be happening again,” Bellamy said. “I’m not looking for sympathy or anything off anyone. It’s one of those things and hopefully it won’t affect my career. I’m just glad it’s over now and I hope to move on from it.”
Bellamy was prevented from taking three rides on the high-profile card but will suffer no further punishment. He said that Alan King and Nigel Twiston-Davies, the two trainers who make most use of him, have promised to continue employing him so long as there is no repeat.
The British Horseracing Authority confirmed that the Flat-racing jockeys David Allan and Fergus Sweeney have also been cautioned after failing pre-race breath tests in October.
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