Never mind Manor Farm, Nicholashayne, Barbury Castle and Sandhill, and their fiscal firepower. Another West Country stable will be aiming for a Grade 1 prize at Kempton next week with the difference that the precious cargo in the horsebox heading up the A303 cost just 4,500.
Joe Lively, once a failed point-to-pointer and now the pride of Venn Farm, will be taking his place in the Feltham Novices Chase on Boxing Day. His trainer Colin Tizzard has his horses in rude health a double at Plumpton yesterday brought his score to five winners from his past six runners and is a case of striking while the iron is sizzling hot with Joe Lively, who won on the bridle at Cheltenham on Friday.
"He came out of that race perfect and he's in the form of his life," said the Sherborne-based handler. "He's eight, coming nine and he'll find things more difficult in handicaps next season, so we may as well have a go against the top novices while we can."
Joe Lively has surprised even the shrewd Tizzard. The son of Flemensfirth had a sorry record in three seasons in point-to-points; though he did score one victory (gifted a truly bad maiden when the clear leader fell at the last). In July last year his connections cut their losses; he was sent to a low-grade monthly clearance auction, where he was spotted by one of Tizzard's long-time close friends, Richard Dimond. Initial impressions were that the bargain should have stayed in the basement. "The first time we tried him up the canter, a leg blew up," said Tizzard. "We fired him and gave him a year off with a view to putting him in a seller. But we started him in novice hurdles, and he won two of his first three."
Since the end of September, the gelding who has forged a fine partnership with his namesake, Tizzard's son Joe has won four of his five chases and climbed two stone up the rankings. He might have been considered fortunate to win a Grade 2 contest at Newbury the leader fell and all but brought down his closest pursuer but there was no argument about his latest success. He made every yard and simply galloped and jumped his rivals into the ground. "He was allowed to bowl along in front and he enjoyed every second of it," said Tizzard. "The fences come in rapid order at Chelteham and he was in a rhythm; he jumped, landed and was away, and gained lengths at each fence. Perhaps there was something hurting him when he was pointing, but he's sound as a pound now and is one of the most enthusiastic horses you'll see.
"He loves racing, he jumps well, he stays and you'd have to say he looks a good horse now, and we'll give him an entry for the Feltham. But that is one of the beauties of jump racing. They can come from any background, however unlikely and Richard swears he bought the horse, not the name and take on, or even be, the best."