Cue Card: puts in a spectacular leap on his way to Ryanair Chase successPICTURE: John Grossick (racingpost.com/photos)
Awesome Cue Card slams Ryanair rivals
Report: Cheltenham Festival, Thursday
Ryanair Chase (Grade 1) 2m5f, New Course, 5yo+
CUE CARD put in an inspired front-running display to put a quality Ryanair Chase field to the sword in fine style.
The 2010 Champion Bumper winner set his stall out from the off and, whereas his jumping has sometimes come unstuck on the biggest stage, it was foot-perfect on his way to a nine-length victory from favourite First Lieutenant.
The 7-2 shot, owned by Jean Bishop, had Champion Court for company at the head of affairs but he settled into a lovely rhythm and, apart from a few minor mistakes, he didn't miss a beat under Joe Tizzard.
His fast, accurate jumping had Champion Court in trouble free-wheeling down the hill where 2-1 favourite First Lieutenant moved into contention.
Coming to the tricky third-last, it looked like Cue Card and First Lieutenant could serve up a battle royale but First Lieutenant made a bad mistake, late replacement Bryan Cooper picking his mount's nose off the ground.
From there it was Cue Card's to lose and he was in no mood to surrender his lead and two sparkling jumps at the final fences sealed a famous win.
The winning jockey said: "People say he's keen when he's taken on and he can be but he was so relaxed today and they were going my pace and I could keep filling him up.
"He's been to four festivals now and never been out of the winner's enclosure. He's a class horse and has got closest to Sprinter Scare.
"Certain horses thrive off this environment and he's one of them. He walks round with a swagger."
Colin Tizzard, winning trainer and Joe's father, added: “I've found it quite hard the last fortnight – nerves is what it is. He's a quite brilliant horse and travelled so well. Joe said he slowed it up going out to the second circuit and then let him go again.
"He made my spine tingle four years ago and he's done it again today."
Albertas Run, winner of the race two years ago and runner-up last year, could never land a blow at his seventh festival and was pulled up by Tony McCoy.
Last year's winner Riverside Theatre was another who ran below par, never travelling with any zest, he finished a well-beaten fourth.
For Non Stop ran a cracking race in third, travelling strongly for Noel Fehily on the inside rail and running to reach the frame.