It is accepted that this sport comes with the full range of emotions attached, but seldom does the coin spin as swiftly as it did yesterday. Half-an-hour after losing their favourite horse, Joe Lively, the father and son Tizzard team, trainerColin and jockey Joe, were in the winner's circle with the emerging new star from their Dorset stable, Hell's Bay.
But welcome though the victory in the day's Grade Two novices' chase was, it was scant compensation for the death of Joe Lively, whose climb through the ranks from humble beginnings was such a heartwarming fairytale. The 12-year-old, whose exploits included a win at the highest level and a completion in last year's Grand National, broke a hind leg as he was caught up in a scrimmage caused by a faller on the first circuit of the stayers' handicap.
The accident happened at the fence in front of the packed grandstands and the splendid little gelding's connections were not the only ones visibly distraught. "Things like this make the game take a bit of sticking," said Tizzard Snr, "He'd been a big part of our lives for years. He gave us some lovely highs and in truth we probably wouldn't be here today without him."
Collective will was with Hell's Bay, a 16-1 shot, and Tizzard Jnr as they recovered after a mistake at the last in the Dipper Chase to repel better-fancied Medermit by three-quarters of a length for their bittersweet success. The pair had the race to themselves through the last half-mile, readily pulling 22 lengths clear of third-placed Reve De Sivola, and are likely to renew their rivalry at the track in the Jewson Chase, the novices' contest over yesterday's two and a half miles at the Festival in March. "This is his trip," added Tizzard. "We've put him in at the deep end and he's done very little wrong for us."
Like Joe Lively, Hell's Bay was a cheap purchase who has advertised his trainer's skills in rehabilitation and spotting a bargain. The nine-year-old was once a smart novice hurdler for Paul Nicholls but lost his form and was cast off by the champion, bought at auction by Tizzard 16 months ago for just £3,000.
Robert Thornton, on the runner-up, was another with mixed feelings in the stirring battle up the hill to the line, for Hell's Bay was also his villain in another piece. It was he who caused the knee injury that kept the rider out of action for five months, when he crashed through the wing of a fence on his first run for the Tizzard stable.
There was a double for Nicky Henderson courtesy of promising novice Bobs Worth in the opener and progressive six-year-old Oscar Whisky, who made short work of his rivals to announce his emergence as a back-up to his stable's reigning king Binocular in the Champion Hurdle, entering the market at around 12-1. And a triple of sorts for David Pipe, who saddled the first three in the three-mile handicap, though their order in provided a happier new year for bookmakers than punters: Ashkazar at 20-1 was followed home by Junior (11-2) and Chartreux (7-1).