PADDY Brennan and Cue Card have enjoyed many highs after victory in the 2015 Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby saw both the jockey – and ever popular horse – enjoy a resurgence.
Grade One success followed in Haydock’s Betfair Chase, Kempton’s King George Chase and Aintree’s Betfred Bowl as Colin Tizzard’s horse of a lifetime proved to be National Hunt racing’s crowd favourite.
It was the same last season when Cue Card and Brennan rolled back the years to defend the Betfair Chase before adding the Ascot Chase to the horse’s list of top successes that began in 2010 with Champion Bumper success at Cheltenham under Tizzard’s son Joe. Yet the elation of these victories masks the deep disappointment of three heavy falls – both in the 2016 and 2017 Cheltenham Gold Cups, ironically at the tricky third last fence in each renewal, and then last November’s Charlie Hall Chase when Cue Card took off too early at the fifth last.
However, while Tizzard and owner Jean Bishop chose not to retire the horse during a protracted post-race debrief at Wetherby when their faces were ashen with angst, Brennan was replaced by teenage jockey Harry Cobden for last November’s Betfair Chase when Cue Card was beaten by Haydock specialist Bristol De Mai.
Now, with Cobden required to ride at Wincanton today for his boss Paul Nicholls, Brennan is reunited with Cue Card as the 12-year-old seeks back-to-back wins in the Grade One Ascot Chase at the Berkshire track.
“Obviously, I am thrilled to get the ride back,” said Brennan after a successful schooling session at Tizzard’s Dorset stables earlier this week.
“I know there were a few names in the hat to ride him this weekend, but I think it speaks volumes about Colin Tizzard that he has put me back on the horse after taking me off.
“Not many owners and trainers have done that before with me, I can tell you, and it shows the people that Jean (Bishop) and Colin are.
“So, of course, I am delighted that things have come back my way and I can tell you – and this is genuine – that Cue Card really did feel as good, if not better, than he did when going into this race last year when I sat on him this morning.
“He felt so, so well.”
The riding circumstances were explained by a phlegmatic Tizzard who said: “At the end of the day we made the decision we were going to try Harry on him and Harry’s not available. What else do we do?.
“Paddy has won some lovely races on him and he knows him. He was the obvious choice.
“Paddy was down (in the yard) the other morning. We wanted to jump him on the grass, but it was too wet, so he jumped two hurdles and four fences and it was absolute poetry to watch.
“We had to calm Paddy down a little bit as he was so excited to be back on him. It was just fun this morning watching them jump as the horse was so enthusiastic.”
This seven runner race, an effective trial for next month’s Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham, will be the sternest test yet for Waiting Patiently as the North Yorkshire horse looks to extend his winning sequence over fences to six.
He’s now trained at Malton by Ruth Jefferson following the death of her father Malcolm earlier this month. His funeral took place yesterday and there remains an outpouring of support for the family.
“Waiting Patiently seems in very good form,” said Jefferson, who recorded her first winner as a trainer when stable stalwart Cyrus Darius prevailed at Kelso on Thursday. “It’s a step up from what he’s done previously, but he certainly deserves to go. He will have to improve again. If he does, you hope he will go close.”