Cue Card: working like a five-year-old according to Colin TizzardPICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)
Star Cue Card not waning yet, says Tizzard
COLIN TIZZARD said on Thursday it is only Cue Card's age keeping him from being favourite for the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup, and that he continues to work with youthful exuberance.
The indefatigable 11-year-old cleaned up his ninth Grade 1 success when landing the Betfair Ascot Chase at the weekend. Yet even after Thistlecrack was ruled out by a tendon injury on Tuesday, Cue Card's lower-rated stablemate Native River, the Hennessy Gold Cup and Welsh Grand National winner, is preferred in the betting markets.
Cue Card will bid to become the oldest winner of the Gold Cup since 12-year-old What A Myth triumphed in 1969.
A year ago with all to play for, including a £1 million bonus, Cue Card fell three out, but he showed he was back to his best at Ascot after running below-par when second in the King George.
Tizzard said: "He was fluent, jumped well and sluiced away. If you'd seen him on the gallop this morning he comes up it like a five-year-old. If he wasn't 11 I'm sure he'd be favourite.
"People say well, he's got be waning. One day he will, but I don't think for one second he is. He's in the form of his life and let's hope we can put right what didn't happen last year."
Seven-year-old Native River is a top-priced 11-4 with Betway for the Gold Cup, with Cue Card 7-2, and Tizzard continued: "Native River is the younger horse. If they were both 11 you'd put Cue Card down as favourite. It's because people can hardly believe that an 11-year-old should be favourite for the Gold Cup."
Speaking at a Cheltenham Festival media event at his yard in Milborne Port, Dorset, Tizzard said he was in a "win-win" position with two candidates of the calibre of Native River and Cue Card, and there was no horse he wanted to win the Gold Cup more than the other.
"I think it's win-win to have two major chances in the Gold Cup," he said. "Jean Bishop's Cue Card has been going for seven seasons now. He's a brilliant horse who doesn't owe us a penny. He's in the form of his life again.
"We forget Native River is only seven but he has done a lot. He's progressed through racing this year, as the good ones do. The more you race them, they better they get. They can take it, and this one has.
"We haven't shielded him at all this season, in the Hennessy and Welsh National, but we've seen from the last time he ran that we don't have to grind everything into the ground. We can go out there and ride a race, quicken up at the second last and sprint away. He's a good horse."
The trainer said the race in which he watched the likes of Pendil, The Dikler and Captain Christy competing when a teenager was "the ultimate test".
"We spend a lot of time and a lot of people's money trying to buy horses to run in the Gold Cup and we have the first and second favourite," he said. "It's come together brilliantly."
Tizzard hopes Cue Card could atone for last year's misfortune, continuing: "The competition is to jump the fences and gallop three miles two and he didn't.
"He started off as a champion bumper horse and now he's 11 and still winning Grade 1s. He has done nearly everything bar win a Gold Cup. It was his own making that he fell last year.
"I wasn't that disappointed last year because the horse walked back in. We have another chance. We actually thought quietly that was his chance gone, but it's definitely not. He has as equally a good chance this year as last. If he wins it would be fantastic. It's what we strive for all our lives."
The trainer said he was over the disappointment of having to rule out Thistlecrack, who he hopes to be back by Christmas.
"He has a little injury," he said. "If he was a premiership footballer they would massage him, give him physio and he'd be back playing in a fortnight. With racehorses you can't because they are jumping and we can do a lot of damage if we ignored it. This is more like a warning than anything else."