Ryanair the race for Cue Card as Gold Cup dream is shelved
Cue Card will tackle the Ryanair Chase rather than the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup after Colin Tizzard and owner Jean Bishop reached a definitive decision at Kempton on Saturday.
The 12-year-old had emerged as a contender for jump racing’s most prestigious prize on March 16 after bouncing back to form with a superb second in the Ascot Chase this month.
But he will instead bid to win the Ryanair Chase – run over more than five furlongs shorter than the Gold Cup – for the second time because Tizzard believes it is a more winnable option.
The trainer said: “He was in very good form last week over 2m5f and he’s won the Ryanair in the past. The Gold Cup is a hard race and his best chance of winning is the Ryanair, so that’s why we’ve gone there.
“Jean and I had ten minutes of very good conversation today and it wasn’t a hard decision in the end, we just didn’t want to make it and change our minds.
“The horse is fine and we went a little bit faster with him this morning and he looked superb. He looks a bit fitter than he did last week and if we can take that form to Cheltenham we’ve got a shout. Paddy Brennan rides.”
Cue Card was on Saturday cut into a general 10-1 chance from 16s for the Ryanair Chase, in which the market is headed by Un De Sceaux.
Henderson stars delight
There was an added treat for spectators at Kempton as Nicky Henderson's Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup favourite Might Bite and reigning Unibet Champion Hurdle hero Buveur D'Air completed a crucial workout in their preparation for next month's festival after racing.
Working with Johnny Henderson Grand Annual hope Theinval, partnered by Jerry McGrath, the trio completed just over a circuit of the track under big-race riders Nico de Boinville and Barry Geraghty, who along with Henderson were delighted with the work.
"I've got three happy jockeys and three happy horses so that makes one happy trainer," said Henderson. "They were very fresh but that was the whole point of it – we wanted to do it under raceday conditions.
"We finished down the back straight rather than in the home where it's a bit quicker. Theinval is a very good lead horse and has done his job. The three boys were thrilled and that was perfect as part of their build-up."
Although Might Bite has not been seen in action since his King George VI Chase win, the workout was arguably more crucial for Buveur D'Air, who has hardly been extended in three wins so far this season and was described as "stuffy" by Henderson.
The trainer added: "He probably did more today than he did at Sandown last time. Barry said he had a ton of horse underneath him and coming to the racecourse puts that edge on them. They were right on it in the paddock."
Geraghty said: "It was lovely. Jerry went a nice pace and it was very simple. We weren't looking to dip him and the three of us finished hard on the bridle but he was in real good form."
According to Henderson, who will bring a team of 12 to work on Kempton's Polytrack on Tuesday, Might Bite and Buveur D'Air have two more serious pieces of work to go before Cheltenham, with snow now the only thing that could "make a mess of things".
He said: "They won't school again now. Might Bite schooled on Thursday and it was real aeroplane stuff."