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In a Tizz

Updated: Feb 3

The Racing Life of Top Trainer Joe Tizzard

‘I wouldn’t swap my life – my hectic life – I’m loving every second of it,’ says former jockey and now-trainer Joe Tizzard.

It’s a life that saw Joe ride seven hundred winners. He started off, in what was a family tradition, between the Flags, mixing farming and riding as an amateur. Aged sixteen, Joe won point-to-points on The Jogger before his first two wins under Rules in Hunter Chases. Two seasons later, Joe won his first race at Cheltenham – at the Festival nonetheless, when winning the Foxhunters’ on Earthmover.

As a young professional, Joe was associated with many big names. In 1998, he won the Haldon Gold Cup on Lake Kariba and the Rehearsal Chase on See More Business. A year later, he won an Arkle on Flagship Uberalles and the Maghull Novices’ Chase at the big Aintree meeting a few weeks later. The following year, Flagship Uberalles won Joe another Haldon Gold Cup, a Tingle Creek and a Game Spirit Chase. Joe won a Grade 1 Ascot Chase on Rockforce too.

In March ’02, Joe spent nearly twelve months on the sidelines after suffering a serious spinal injury but during these early years, the Tizzard family’s training operation had been slowly expanding. With Joe in the saddle, Joe Lively and Hey Big Spender were early flag bearers but it was Cue Card who shot the yard up there with the best. In 2010, he and Joe won the Champion Bumper at 40-1 and when chasing, won a Haldon Gold Cup in ’12, the ’13 Ascot Chase as well as the Ryanair Chase at the Cheltenham Festival and a Betfair Chase at Haydock.

In March 2014, Joe retired from the saddle to become assistant to his father, Colin. In a real family business of training racehorses and farming, Colin, Joe and his sister Kim combined their skills to produce many big winners, including the Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Native River. Yet, tragically in May 2020, Kim lost her battle with cancer and, not long after, Joe took over the training.

Continuing on from where his father left off, Joe sent out this year’s winner of the Haldon Gold Cup with Elixir De Nutz, most poignantly ridden by nephew – eighteen-year-old son of Kim – Freddie Gingell. To have ridden three Haldon Gold Cups himself and seen his father train one as recently as 2021 with Eldorado Allen, this emotional success must have been the pinnicle of Joe’s training career, only to be trounced by same connections winning the Grade 1 Clarence House Chase at the end of January. And the days that Kim must have been looking down upon.

Joe, 43, was born in the Dorset market town of Sherborne but admits to ‘having not gone far’ and lives just outside there in the little village of Milborne Port. He is married to Rachel, a dairy nutritionist and they have a one-year-old boy called Thomas, plus a brace of black Labradors called Willow and Tilly.

How horsey was your childhood? Horses were always around the place. Dad hunted and point-to-pointed. My older sister Kim and I had ponies from a very early age, before I can even remember.

We started in the Pony Club from as soon as we could join and went all the way through. We started hunting on the lead rein, hunted all winter throughout our childhood and I have continued to go hunting all of my life.

From around eleven, I did quite a bit of showjumping on our 14.2s – we competed BSJA but not to the highest standards. I had two foxhunter ponies and travelled all over.

Was it always inevitable that you went into racing? Being dairy farmers, it was initially more about point-to-pointing. Dad had pointers until I was about eleven – then there was a blank for approximately five years where he didn’t have any. Then, approaching my sixteenth birthday, Dad went to Ascot Sales and bought two cheap horses and my grandfather had a homebred. So, those were my three pointers for my first season riding.

I was sixteen in the December and, back then, pointing didn’t start until the January. I rode at that Larkhill meeting, which was the first one of the season.

I was lucky enough to have seven or eight winners that season and a place in the Wilkinson Sword. I also won a Hunter Chase at Wincanton and that’s when Paul Nicholls offered me a job as his amateur. Dad didn’t want me to go and muck out stables when there was plenty of work like that on the farm so he arranged for me to go and ride out three days a week.

When in the big yard, I really caught the bug. Plus, some local people sent us point-to-pointers to train and it started growing from there.

What were your best days as a jockey? Earthmover won a Cheltenham Foxhunters’ for me when I was seventeen – that was unbelievable. The following year, Flagship Uberalles won the Arkle in my first year as a professional. I became Paul’s number one jockey, leading conditional and broke AP McCoy’s total.

It was a crazy start when I was in my late teens and early twenties. I was still getting plenty of rides and winners but I had a lull, especially at the Cheltenham Festival. It took my eleven years to ride another Cheltenham winner – when Cue Card won the bumper and then I won the Ryanair on him before I finished.

Being Champion Conditional and being Paul Nicholls’ first jockey twice – I had it, lost it then regained it before I broke my back – were all times that I rode some seriously good horses. I loved being a jockey – I was a professional jockey for seventeen years and I loved every second of it. Travelling round the country with my friends was hard work and meant a lot of driving but we’d always share lifts. I picked up rides for smaller yards and I was busy.

Favourite racehorses: I don’t think I ever had a favourite one but the good ones that took you to those big days are particularly special.

When I was a new professional, Flagship Uberalles really put me on the map and Double Thriller did too when we finished fourth in a Cheltenham Gold Cup. Then, later on, there were Joe Lively and Cue Card.

Joe Lively (pictured) was a good horse who took us, as a family-run yard, to places that we’d never dreamt of. He was bought cheaply at Ascot Sales by my godfather and we always thought he’d only bought him because he had Joe in his name. Joe Lively was special to us as a family and represents how it’s not always about the expensive horses. At the time, he really put us on the map, especially as I was just getting quieter at Paul’s and our yard at home was growing.

Favourite racecourse: I used to love riding at Wincanton. I had lots of winners there and it’s our local track. Lots of friends would be there; I’d have a drink with them in the bar afterwards. Paul would have a lot of winners there and we had a lot of runners there so I loved Wincanton. Also, there’s nowhere like riding a winner at Cheltenham – simple as that.

I loved riding round Exeter and Chepstow – whilst going round, you had all the time in the world, but Wincanton was my favourite.

How did you feel about taking over training from your Dad? It was absolutely the right time – I’d retired from being a jockey nearly ten years previously and had been involved with the yard at home. My sister Kim was still here then and it was a huge team effort: we had all our roles and it worked really well. Dad had always wanted to call it Tizzard Racing but you can only have two names on your licence so Dad didn’t want to only use two of our names when there were the three of us involved.

I was never really going to take it over until we sadly lost Kim – it knocked Dad for six and it changed the whole dynamic. Dad then decided the time was right for me to take over and for him to take a back seat.

It was the perfect time too – I was the right age, married and about the start a family. Yet, it was all different – that dynamic of the three bosses all gone. Previously, we knew our roles: Kim and I would often come up with an idea and pump it into Dad and let him think, two weeks later, that it was his idea. We’d always get our way and we worked really well together. I’ve had to replace two people really, but I’ve got a good assistant in Chris Ward and a good head lad who’s just come on the scene.

It's taken a little while for everyone to fill those new roles but we’ve settled into a good routine. Dad is still around but doesn’t act the boss anymore – he doesn’t tell me where to enter horses, and he’s letting me learn and make the mistakes that he’d made. I still get his opinion whether I want it or not, but he doesn’t try to pull all the strings anymore!

Have you adopted any of your Dad’s sayings? There’s no doubt I’m moulding into my father – poor Rach and I are told our son looks like Colin. I can even feel myself increasingly becoming him.

Which racehorse would you have loved to have trained? We were spoilt when we had Cue Card, Thistlecrack and Native River, and that their timings overlapped.

Cue Card was very special to me because I rode him. But Native River was also special, especially winning a Gold Cup – he was always a gent, a poser’s ride and he still is a fantastic horse. Thistlecrack was probably the most talented of them all – he just wasn’t physically the strongest but ten days before he won the World Hurdle, we’ve never seen anything go up the gallops like him.

I’d love to train one like them in my own name.

What are your hopes and dreams for the future? We still run two businesses – training racehorses and, even though we don’t milk cows anymore, we run five hundred heads of beef. I enjoy the farming side of it as well – it’s a good break for me in the summer to drive a tractor or to do a bit of farming.

From a training point of view, I’ve not got huge aspirations to train two hundred winners in a year or two be Champion Traner. I’d just really like to train good horses, especially Cheltenham horses – that’s my dream. I don’t want to be racing all summer to train fifty more winners in order to win the championship. I’d rather win it through by training winners of big races. I’d never turn a horse away but I want to train quality. We train about a hundred horses and that’s an ideal amount – if the majority were good horses, that would be fantastic.

If you weren’t a trainer, what would you be? If I hadn’t been a jockey, I’d definitely be a farmer. Dad has always farmed and his two brothers are big dairy farmers; that’s how Dad was brought up. In becoming a jockey, I changed the family dynamic. We got more involved with horses and Dad got his permit and then his trainer’s licence.

How safe is the future of racing? I think racing will survive. I’m a hunting-sporting-racing supporter. These people want to basically stop racing and are the minority.

I understand that we have to give a little bit but I don't think that they'll be able to stop racing. Yet, they won't disappear either so we just have to be able to try and educate as much as we can. In giving a little, we can save our sport but should not lie down completely. With what has happened with the whip and the Grand National, we’re give, give, give but they’ll never be happy and we’ll have to give more next year. If we lose the National then it’ll be jump racing as a whole – we’ve just got to play the game sensibly and try to protect it. The people that have charged onto the racecourses are professional activists; they also stop the motorways and once one thing has stopped, they’ll only move onto the next.

Joe winning the Champion Bumper on Cue Card in 2010

Favourite meal: Steak.

Favourite drink: Guinness.

Favourite holiday destination: I love going down to somewhere like Rock, Cornwall in the summer – if the weather is nice then it’s as good as anywhere in the world.

Favourite film: Top Gun back in the day.

Favourite music: I like music. I’m pretty openminded about music but at the moment, The 1975 is my favourite. If I stick my Spotify on then I’ll listen to whatever Rach has been listening to.

Other hobbies and interests: I don't really have time for much but I might play two or three rounds of golf in the summer and I might go hunting in the winter.

*Many thanks to Old Gold Racing for the help in securing this interview. They published it first in their fabulous newsletter Racing Weekly. To sign up, go to

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