Cue Card gets up to snatch spoils with last-gasp rally in 2015 King George
First published on Sunday, December 27, 2015
A race with a history full of serial winners fell to one of its multiple losers when the rejuvenated Cue Card fought back ferociously to snatch King George glory at the fourth attempt yesterday, edging out Vautour in a thunderous climax to the Christmas classic.
The race veteran with form figures of 525 in the contest before yesterday finally secured the win he deserved for perseverance alone when rallying under a hard drive from Paddy Brennan, for which he earned an 11-day whip ban and £4,200 fine, to win a photo-finish verdict by a head.
The result kept alive Cue Card's chances of landing the £1 million Jockey Club Racecourses bonus awarded to connections of a horse who wins the Betfair Chase, William Hill King George VI Chase and Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup.
And the nine-year-old is likely to head straight to the festival without another run, to make his first appearance in the Gold Cup on his fifth run at the fixture. He is a top-priced 7-1 with BoyleSports, Ladbrokes and Betfair Sportsbook.
At the Cheltenham Festival Cue Card has won the Champion Bumper and Ryanair Chase, but until undergoing surgery on a trapped epiglottis during the summer he had been repeatedly found wanting in the King George, most frustratingly two years ago when tying up at the final fence to be beaten into second by Silviniaco Conti.
When Vautour turned into the straight he looked in complete control.
He was two lengths up at the second-last, when Don Cossack fell, leaving Cue Card the only threat to a sixth King George win for Ruby Walsh. An untidy jump at the last still left Cue Card with ground to make up, but it was the Colin Tizzard stable star who took the spoils.
"Nowadays he's a completely different horse," said Tizzard. "He lobs around in fifth or sixth and looks beaten, and then he has that left for the end. If he'd met the last on a good stride he'd have won by a length and a half.
"He looks like a Gold Cup horse now. At this point I probably think he wouldn't run again because he had a hard race today. He was all out at the line - but it's a very significant fact that now he can finish his races."
"Cue Card has been about for a long time and he means everything to me and a lot of other people."
Brennan had a taste of Cheltenham Gold Cup glory on Imperial Commander in 2010, and Cue Card has revived his career.
"That's the best feeling of my whole career," he said, "the best day of my life. He's beaten one of the best horses in training, I've beaten one of the best jockeys I've ever ridden against. I'm so proud.
"It was a true race, I'm not going to lie and say there was loads there, I got to the bottom of the tank, but if there's any man that's going to get him back in that kind of form for the Gold Cup it's Colin Tizzard.
"And to the people who say he didn't stay, it's taken him to the line to get there."
Brennan added: "The last time I got in a close finish with Ruby was Imperial Commander against Kauto Star. I thought I'd got there then and I hadn't. Today he said I'd won.
"I'd just like to thank Cue Card, all the staff at Colin Tizzard's, and Bob and Jean Bishop; if it wasn't for them I'd never be in this position."
Although only a narrow winner, Brennan, who took over the ride on Cue Card this season, had been confident of winning beforehand, according to Bob Bishop.
"He rang me yesterday and said, 'I won't sleep a wink tonight because you're going to win tomorrow'," Bishop revealed.
"When he went to Wetherby Paddy said the other horses needn't have turned up because we were going to win. Then we went to the Betfair he said, 'Don't worry about this, go and celebrate because we're going to win it'. The two of them just gel. They are a great partnership.
"Winning the Betfair Chase was great, but today must be the best moment. It's the tops."
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