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Sunday, 16 December, 2018

Cue Card team set for make-or-break talks to decide popular star's future

Jean Bishop with Cue Card and Paddy Brennan after the 2016 Betfair Chase at Haydock
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Team Cue Card are facing a dilemma over the horse's future, specifically as to whether he still has one on the racecourse.

Owner Jean Bishop wants a sit-down chat with trainer Colin Tizzard to determine if arguably the most popular jumps horse in training runs again or is given a well-deserved retirement.

It is almost certain the nine-time Grade 1 winner will be retired at the end of the season, but connections have yet to decide whether he has another outing after being pulled up in Thursday's Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham.

That came off the back of the 12-year-old's fine second to Waiting Patiently in the Betfair Ascot Chase, which suggested the two-time festival hero had more to offer.

However, he was pulled up before the 12th by Paddy Brennan in the Ryanair, leading Tizzard, who celebrated Cheltenham Gold Cup glory with Native River, to say immediately after the race: "It was the last thing I expected."

Speaking on Sunday morning, Bishop said: "I haven't seen Colin since we said goodbye on Thursday. We came home from Cheltenham on Friday and I live about four and half hours away from Colin, so I haven't seen or spoken to him.

"I won't get down this week, but we may run Theatre Guide in a veterans' chase at Ascot on Sunday. When you're with people at the races it's difficult to sit and have a private conversation, so I'll have to wait to hear from Colin, but it's not the same talking on the phone as talking face to face."

As though to confirm just how much of a poser she is facing, Bishop added: "I really don't know what I think. One minute I think one thing and then another. I'll have to be guided by what Colin says.

"He's been busy with Native River and enjoying that success, but we'll have to talk soon about Theatre Guide and King's Walk, who might also have an entry next weekend."

The testing conditions were put forward as one reason for Cue Card's tame effort, although he had won at the highest level on heavy ground.

"It's difficult to know," added his owner, who shared the horse with her late husband Bob.

Cue Card and Paddy Brennan return after pulling up in the Ryanair

"People have said about the ground. Colin said he'd been in that ground before, but it may be now he's older he doesn't need that. He ran so well at Ascot and Waiting Patiently hasn't run since then, and I think he was all out to beat Cue Card that day.

"You think one minute seeing him being pulled up that's it, but then you think back to Ascot and wonder why he ran so well. Was it the ground he didn't like at Cheltenham? These are the things we'll talk about when we get together and see what the answers are. It's one of those occasions you wish they could speak and then you could ask!"

A shock 40-1 winner of the Champion Bumper at the 2010 festival, the son of King's Theatre landed the Ryanair three years later and has also won three Betfair Chases and a King George VI Chase, but suffered the first of two heartbreaking Gold Cup falls when in contention in 2016.

"Our main concern – as with any of our horses - is about them," Bishop said. "The decision will be made about what's best for him.

"I shouldn't think he'd be back next season, but Colin and I had a little chat after the race at Cheltenham and we said straight away we're not talking about it today."


You might also be interested in . . .

Ryanair result, replay and analysis

'I still love Cue Card completely – I'll look after him just like he'd won'

The festival forays that helped Cue Card become Britain's most popular chaser


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It's one of those occasions you wish they could speak and then you could ask!
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