Colin Tizzard admits that Cue Card may have made his final bid for Gold Cup glory at Cheltenham, with the Ryanair Chase a likely target this season.
Now 11 years old, Cue Card remains one of the most popular chasers in training and will begin his new campaign in Saturday’s Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby.
There he is set to square off against 2015 Gold Cup hero Coneygree, with Mark Bradstock’s stable star set for just his fourth run since that Blue Ribband success.
With Wetherby getting 3mm of overnight rain on Monday, conditions are likely to be good to soft for Saturday’s race, which has helped Coneygree assume favouritism at 15/8 for the Charlie Hall.
Cue Card meanwhile is 5/2 and Tizzard doesn’t believe his veteran is showing any signs of regression. When the pair clashed in the Betfair Chase at Haydock last November it was Cue Card that came out best by 15 lengths, though he will now be conceding 6lbs to his old rival having raced off level weights that afternoon.
“I think he’s better this autumn than he was 12 months ago,” said Tizzard. “We took him to Wincanton for a gallop and he finished eight lengths ahead of a 155-rated horse.
“After Christmas it’ll be Ascot [for the Ascot Chase] and then on to Cheltenham where we’d have a good think about the Gold Cup because he’s fallen in it the last twice, and maybe the Ryanair is an option.”
Cue Card can be backed at 6/1 to win the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham in March.
Coneygree may have had his troubles in recent seasons but he ran a stormer when third behind Sizing John at Punchestown in April and Sara Bradstock, assistant trainer to husband Mark, feels he too remains capable of showing his best form.
“We’d be giving all of those bar Cue Card weight in a handicap but we’re getting weight off a lot of them on Saturday. You’d have to hope that he goes there with a very good shout,” she said.
“He ran a hell of a race in Ireland and he came on for that, he needed that to give him confidence after the injury to a front leg and since then he’s really come together.”
“I genuinely think he’s as good as ever. He’s ten but he has no miles on the clock and he hasn’t really got any speed to lose as he never had any. There isn’t a top gear to lose.”
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