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Gold Cup favourite primed to keep up Cue Card's good work

Thistlecrack: schooled on grass with Hennessy favourite Native River on Saturday
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With the first leg of chasing's Triple Crown secured by Cue Card, Colin Tizzard has his sights on another weekend of riches when he unleashes Gold Cup favourite Thistlecrack and Hennessy Gold Cup favourite Native River at Newbury on Saturday.

While Cue Card was on his way up to Haydock, where a third win in the Betfair Chase emphatically dispelled any lingering worries that his long-time flagbearer might be past his prime, Tizzard was marshalling the stable's new wave of top-class chasing talent in a schooling session that left both trainer and jockeys purring.

Tizzard revealed: "Tom [Scudamore] schooled Thistlecrack on the grass with Native River on Saturday, which we haven't been able to do before. They went quick upsides, and that's the sort of experience he hasn’t had in his two races over fences.

"We came away both saying that Thistlecrack learned more at home in that one session than he had in his two races, because he was upsides, clipping along.

"He was good. He couldn't have been any better, so we were all well pleased. He'll be entered on Monday for the bet365 Novices' Chase at Newbury on Saturday."

Tizzard, whose earnings so far already exceed those of the entire 2014-15 season and place him behind only Paul Nicholls and Philip Hobbs in the trainers' table, was equally pleased with Native River, who is a general 6-1 chance for the Hennessy, and Theatre Guide, who took part in the same schooling session.

Native River: will be in peak condition for the Hennessy on Saturday, says Colin Tizzard
He said: "Native River jumped well on Saturday, and he's already had a good prep run. Richard Johnson has committed to ride him. He'll be as good as he's going to be on Saturday.

"We jumped Theatre Guide as well, because he's heading for the Hennessy too, and we had a lovely morning. Third Intention will wait for Aintree and the big fences next month, though. He was more left-hand drive than ever at Ascot on Saturday."

Delight with 'class act' Cue Card

Tizzard took time to reflect on Cue Card’s wide-margin defeat of Coneygree, which set him up for a second crack at the Betfair Chase, King George VI and Gold Cup hat-trick that he might well have completed last season but for falling three out at Cheltenham.

He said about the ten-year-old, who at a top-priced 7-1 has only stablemate Thistlecrack shorter in the Gold Cup betting: "He looks right back as good as we’ve ever seen him. We’ve got one or two other good ones in the yard now and until Saturday we were thinking that after years of being such a fantastic horse for us perhaps time was catching up, but definitely not now.

"He showed everyone what a class act he still is, and that was brilliant. He looked as good as he’s ever been. He jumped immaculately and was right on his game."

Tizzard added: "Three years ago we were really worried about running him on that kind of ground but nowadays he seems to float on top of it and doesn’t go down into it. The King George is another day, but if he's in the form he was in at Haydock he'll take some beating. I see he's a pretty warm favourite, and I think he's entitled to be."

With such a strong team of big-race hopefuls, Tizzard has emerged as a title challenger and 32Red make him 6-1 second favourite behind reigning champion Paul Nicholls, who is 1-5. Willie Mullins is 7-1 and Nicky Henderson 16-1.

Cue Card: Paddy Brennan and Colin Tizzard (right) are looking forward to the King George
Cue Card's jockey Paddy Brennan cannot wait for Kempton, when the King George will be sponsored for the first time by 32 Red.

Writing in the sponsors' blog, he said: "I genuinely knew he would take the world of beating when I hacked him down to the start. It was the first time I had sat on him since the Charlie Hall, and that immediately answered any questions I may have had.

"I wear my heart on my sleeve, and it was a massive day for me. I have won a Gold Cup and big races before but I was hoping and praying Cue Card could deliver what he was capable of, and give us all something to look forward to for the rest of the reason. And he didn’t disappoint, did he?

"So all roads now lead to the 32Red King George on Boxing Day. And, as Colin said, there is now only one horse that can win the Jockey Club's £1m bonus."

Vezelay team keen to return

Unsung at the time on Saturday was the third place of French-trained outsider Vezelay, clear of Silviniaco Conti. Trainer Emmanuel Clayeux was proud of the seven-year-old and hopes to return.

He said: "Vezelay ran very well as the two horses in front have won the biggest races. The ground was a little too soft for him and if the ground was better he could have been closer. It's been a good trip and I'm very happy.

"In France we have more prize-money but I like English racing because more people like the races and the atmosphere is better. It was the first time racing in Britain for a lot of my owners and they're very happy and want to come back."

Thistlecrack learned more at home in that one session than he had in his two races, because he was upsides, clipping along
E.W. Terms