Ascot: Sensational Cue Card thumps opposition

Cue Card and Paddy Brennan stylishly jump another fence

PICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos) Sensational Cue Card thumps Ascot Chase field By stuart riley 3:53PM 18 FEB 2017

Report: Ascot, Saturday

Betfair Ascot Chase (Grade 1) 2m5f, 5yo+

HIS younger stablemates may have stolen the limelight in recent months but at Ascot on Saturday Cue Card served a timely reminder of his own wondrous talent.

It would be even-money each the two as to which was more electric – the 11-year-old's open display of authority, or the reception he received upon his return to the winner's enclosure.

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The race between scrambling fans clamouring for a vantage point from which to roar back their hero was vastly more competitive than the Grade 1 of which he had just made a mockery, winning by an eased-down 15 lengths under a broad-grinning Paddy Brennan.

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It was a welcome that touched all connected to this most majestic of beasts. In Thistlecrack and Native River Colin Tizzard may have two horses deemed by bookmakers to have a better chance than his 6-1 of winning next month's Gold Cup, but the trainer knows Cue Card is the most popular by far.

"He's such a superstar," he said in awe. "He's surprised me all my life, he's been a brilliant horse for such a long time and deserved that [reception].

"You keep worrying, he's 11 years old, can he keep doing this? I've been doing this with him for years and he was brilliant again today. He jumped fantastic and destroyed them. It was everything I could have wanted and more."

A disappointing second in the King George had raised questions as to whether he was attempting to outrun father time's growing shadow, but his trainer revealed a more medical explanation.

"After his last race he wasn't right behind, he had a big fat leg afterwards. He had a bit of lymphangitis – he didn't have it when he raced but you don't know if it affected him."

Sharper pace

Once that cleared up Tizzard – who suggested despite the growing strength of his team he still did not have a horse who could beat the 11-year-old up his four furlong gallop, not that he'd tried – was talked into a detour from last year's path by Cue Card's jockey.

"Paddy was the instigator of this," explained Tizzard. "He said to come here because over two and a half they'd go a Cheltenham pace, we wouldn't have to have three months off and it'd fire him up and keep his jumping sharp."

Brennan may only have been in the saddle for ten of Cue Card's 35 career starts, but his deep love for the horse is obvious. As a jockey he had won World Hurdles and Gold Cups, but he had also endured a meandering few years and when he said "he's changed my life the last couple of years" he was not joking.

"He's a serious machine," was his glowing appraisal of Cue Card's ninth Grade 1 win – a month short of seven years after his first. "I was most impressed from the second last to the last, he picked up like a good horse should."

On the Gold Cup, he added: "In a normal year he'd be a short-priced favourite but this is an exceptional Gold Cup. It's going to be an unbelievable race but he'll be ridden different tactically and if they get into it a long way out it could just fall in his lap. I certainly wouldn't swap him for either of the other two and I'm sure he won't let us down."

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