CUE Card attempts to sign off a remarkable season with victory in the Bibby Financial Services Punchestown Gold Cup today.
Colin Tizzard’s resurgent stable star has enjoyed a phenomenal season since winning Wetherby’s flagship Charlie Hall Chase last October.
The only blip came when the horse fell at the third last fence in the blue riband Cheltenham Gold Cup moments after taking up the lead.
However, he was imperious in Aintree’s Betfred Bowl earlier this month and Tizzard has no qualms about venturing across the Irish Sea.
“He is showing all his enthusiasm and he looks fantastic,” he said, “He has not had a hard second half of the season since the King George.
“He fell in the Gold Cup before the race got going in earnest, then he won quite easily at Aintree. He is still a fresh horse and is in the form of his life and he can’t not go as he deserves to.
“He is probably better this year than ever before, and that’s the most outstanding thing for me. He has come back as a 10-year-old as good as he has ever been, if not better.”
Though Gold Cup hero Don Cossack has been ruled out through injury, Cue Card will not have things all his own way.
The Willie Mullins-trained pair of Djakadam and Don Poli, who were second and third respectively at Cheltenham, take on the admirable 10-year-old.
Cue Card will once again be ridden by the rejuvenated Paddy Brennan who landed yesterday’s Boylesports Champion Chase on God’s Own for trainer Tom George. ahead of the more illustrious Vautour and Simonsig.
“For the first mile I had no control and I just let him go, but to be fair he came back then and I filled him up. He was awesome today,” said Brennan.
“The ground out there is probably the nicest ground I’ve ridden on this year. It’s great to ride a big one on my home turf. This is where I’m from and it’s a proud day.”
Ryan Moore gets the chance to see if the fire still burns brightly inside Clever Cookie in the Longines Sagaro Stakes at Ascot today.
Surprisingly beaten on his return at Nottingham by a 50-1 chance in Frosty Berry, whom he meets again, Malton trainer Peter Niven expects him to strip a good deal fitter.
With Moore available, Niven felt he may as well use the best available in the hope the 5lb he receives from Flying Officer will help him turn the tables from their last meeting on Champions Day.
Niven said: “With Ryan available we felt we’d go down a different route. I know he won’t be able to ride him all season, but I’ll get some different feedback.
“Frosty Berry just outstayed us at Nottingham and it remains to be seen if she can confirm the form, but I felt we could have been better positioned.
“The Sagaro looks a better race than normal. We looked at Chester, but it comes a little too close to York and we’re building towards the Yorkshire Cup.
“The ground should be fine for him, there juice in it and it’s hardly drying weather. Maybe he’s lost a bit of his zip – he is eight after all – but he doesn’t feel like he has at home.”