OWNER Jean Bishop has paid tribute to her horse of a lifetime after multiple Grade One-winning steeplechaser Cue card was retired.
Though the veteran 12-year-old was due to bow out at Sandown on Saturday week, trainer Colin Tizzard called time on the horse’s career after some unconvincing work on the gallops.
The runaway winner of the Cheltenham Bumper in 2010, Cue Card developed into a formidable three-mile steeplechaser and his big race wins included the 2015 Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby.
He produced one of his finest career performances when narrowly losing out to Ruth Jefferson’s Waiting Patiently at Ascot this February before being pulled up in the Ryanair Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.
The winner of 16 out of 41 races, he looked on course to win the 2016 Cheltenham Gold Cup before a crashing fall at the third last fence.
Though he counted three Betfair Chases, two Ascot Chases, a Ryanair and a King George on his record, Bishop pinpointed that first Grade One as her happiest memory.
“I think my favourite day was the Cheltenham Bumper because that was so unexpected,” she said.
“He was 40-1 and it was the beginning of everything for him.
“If it wasn’t for Sprinter Sacre, he might have had another three or four Grade Ones.
“We never ran away from anything and he took them all on, he was the only one that did. He always tried his best and sometimes he wasn’t beaten that far by him.”
Cue Card’s last win came in the Ascot Chase in February 2017.
He was victorious nine races at Grade One level, with almost £1.5m in prize money to his name.
He was arguably at his best in the 2015-16 season, when he won the Charlie Hall at Wetherby and the Betfair Chase before adding the King George at Kempton after a thrilling battle with Vautour.
“I think his longevity made him stand out. We’ve never been hard on him, he was never over-raced, he was healthy all the time,” said Bishop.
“For a few seasons he was the highest-rated chaser in Britain. Look how hard it is for Gold Cup winners to come back the following season. He might not have won the Gold Cup, but he kept coming back.
“Even as recently as February, he ran right up to his best at Ascot against a horse everyone is tipping for the top (Waiting Patiently).
“We’d have liked to have run at Sandown, but if he’s not right then he can’t run.
“Had it been earlier in the year we could have let him get over this, but you never know what might happen in a race. We can go and enjoy Sandown now without any pressure.
“I feel sad about it and, while he can enjoy his retirement, it is always sad when something comes to an end.”
Harry Angel has been pencilled in to make his seasonal reappearance in the Duke of York Stakes next month.
Clive Cox’s sprinter enjoyed a fantastic three-year-old campaign, beating his elders to claim successive Group Ones in the July Cup at Newmarket and the Sprint Cup at Haydock.
The Godolphin colt was runner-up in the Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot and rounded off his season by finishing fourth in the British Champions Sprint at the Berkshire track in October.
A return to the Royal meeting for the Diamond Jubilee is top of Cox’s agenda, with York’s Dante meeting identified as a suitable starting point.
Meanwhile, York’s Dante Stakes – a noted Epsom Derby trial – could be the target for Mark Johnston’s Mildenberger after the Middleham horse got up close to home to win the Feilden Stakes at Newmarket under James Doyle.
“We’ll decide a plan, but the Dante looks the obvious race, and that will tell us whether we go to the Derby or not,” said Johnston.