Cue Card: Ryanair hero makes his season debut at ExeterPICTURE: John Grossick (racingpost.com/photos)
Cue Card out to defend Haldon Gold Cup
IT IS not quite Arkle proportions but Cue Card stands head and shoulders above the six rivals in his way of retaining the BetVictor Haldon Gold Cup (2.50).
Success in the Ryanair Chase at the Cheltenham Festival means he lines up for his defence of the Grade 2 limited handicap rated 15lb higher than last year and set to concede 17lb and more to his opponents.
Somersby is Cue Card’s nearest rival in the weights. Trained by Mick Channon, he is the only other runner able to boast a Grade 1 win, having landed the Victor Chandler Chase at Ascot in January 2012.
Nigel Twiston-Davies has reached for the visor for his enigmatic Mad Moose, who responded to first-time blinkers last year when third over hurdles at Aintree.
Despite a tendency to refuse to race, Mad Moose finished a respectable distance behind Sprinter Sacre at Cheltenham in January, ahead of Somersby and Kumbeshwar, and chased home Mount Athos in the Group 3 Ormonde Stakes on the Flat.
What they say
Colin Tizzard, trainer of Cue Card
“He was very good in this race last year and there is no reason why he shouldn’t be as good again. He has a bit more weight and it is not a straightforward job against decent horses, but he is always pretty good first time out. He’s working as good as ever, if not better, and ground on the soft side of good would be perfect.”
Henrietta Knight, assistant trainer of Somersby
“He started last season late with splint problems but is fine this year and in very good shape. He will come on for the race but is pretty straight. He blundered at the first in the straight when third in the race three years ago. He’s probably better going right-handed and he’ll go to Ascot for the Amlin after this.”
Evan Williams, trainer of William’s Wishes
“He had a small problem with a hind leg that kept him off after his January win. He has had a good long summer’s break but has done plenty of work. He doesn’t have any Graded-race form, having just won handicaps, so I’m not particularly optimistic.”
Tom George, trainer of Module
“He’s had a good summer and this is a nice race to start him off in and blow away the cobwebs. He’s a nice staying prospect but has plenty of pace. He’s lightly raced so we didn’t want to go for one of the big handicaps. A smaller field to give him more experience is ideal.”
Paul Nicholls, trainer of Fago
“He’s got so much condition on him it makes me think he might need his first run in today’s Haldon Gold Cup and he’ll improve for it.”
Nigel Twiston-Davies, trainer of Mad Moose
“I don’t know whether he’ll jump off or not. He’s had a nice break and is going really well at home. It will be up to him on the day but not many in the race would be rated 100 on the Flat like he is.”
Exeter Chase good to soft, Hurdle good to soft, soft in places