Cue Card in brilliant form
View from connections ahead of Cue Card's bid for back-to-back victories in the bet365 Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby.
Cue Card is 'in beautiful form'
Colin Tizzard is in bullish mood ahead of Cue Card's bid for back-to-back victories in the bet365 Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby.
Plenty felt the popular veteran's best days may behind him, but he enjoyed a resurgent campaign last term.
A comeback victory in West Yorkshire was followed by tremendous top-level triumphs in the Betfair Chase at Haydock and the King George VI Chase at Kempton, before his heartbreaking late exit in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
He bounced back with a stunning victory at Aintree and while he signed off in defeat at Punchestown, Tizzard feels his 10-year-old is in the form of his life ahead of his return, despite his advancing years.
"He's in absolutely brilliant form," said the Dorset handler.
"He had a racecourse gallop last week and Joe (Tizzard) rode him last Saturday morning in a piece of work and he was electric.
"Joe's words were, 'He's a class above the rest', so we'll see.
"I honestly don't think we've ever had him in better form than he is now. That is a statement considering he's 10, but we really couldn't be happier with him."
Victory for Cue Card would top off the perfect week for the Tizzard team following Thistlecrack's foot-perfect chasing debut at Chepstow on Tuesday.
The likelihood of the stable companions locking horns at some stage this season now appears increasingly likely.
"Without doubt, that period last year was the best Cue Card's ever been at home and on course," Joe Tizzard told At The Races.
"There's nothing to suggest he won't be as good right now. I rode him Saturday and he's in beautiful form, and looks an absolute picture.
"We're aware of his age, but he'll tell us when that starts becoming a problem and at home he doesn't show his age at all.
"I wouldn't have a clue who to ride between him and Thistlecrack.
"Cue Card is close to my heart as I won some brilliant races on him, but we haven't got to the bottom of Thistlecrack yet, and he could be anything over a fence."
The Philip Hobbs-trained Menorah is also chasing his second Charlie Hall triumph.
Winner in 2014, the 11-year-old was pulled up 12 months ago, but jockey Richard Johnston expects the forecast good ground to bring out the best in his mount.
Johnson said: "I schooled him last week and he seems in great form with himself. He's the one horse that I'm actually happy that it hasn't rained for the last three weeks.
"Good ground is what he wants. They're all pretty decent horses and it will be a good race. He's very enthusiastic and has been a fantastic servant."
Blaklion won the Towton Novices' Chase over this course and distance in February before claiming Cheltenham Festival glory in the RSA Chase, providing jockey Ryan Hatch with his first winner at the showpiece meeting.
"March seems a while ago now, but it was a great day and one that I'll never forget," said Hatch.
"I schooled him on Monday and he felt great and I'm looking forward to getting back on him.
"Cue Card was awesome last season. Our horse is only seven, so you'd hope he can improve.
"It will be exciting to see how he matches up against the older horses.
"Nigel's (Twiston-Davies') horses are in good form and Blaklion has won at Wetherby before, which is always a plus."
Wakanda is another previous course winner, but has plenty to prove after he was pulled up on his final two starts of last season at Cheltenham and Aintree.
Trainer Sue Smith said: "He has summered really well and seems in very good form. It is obviously a very good race but Wetherby is his local track and the owner is keen to have a crack at it.
"The ground was extremely heavy when he ran at Cheltenham and I think both that race and Aintree came on the back of quite a long season.
"He doesn't handle very heavy ground because he is only a tiny horse. We will find out more about him on Saturday."
Irish Cavalier rounded off last season with a lucrative victory at Punchestown and blew away the cobwebs at Chepstow earlier in the month.
"We entered him for the Ascot race (Sodexo Gold Cup), but I just felt the ground would have been quick enough for him there, it's a big field and he'd have had a big weight," said trainer Rebecca Curtis.
"I'm keen to give him a go in a Graded race and see how he gets on. The trip was a bit short for him at Chepstow and he seems in very good form."
Paul Nicholls last won this prize with Silviniaco Conti in 2012 and sends consistent chaser Virak into battle.
The David Pipe-trained Dynaste, runner-up to Cue Card 12 months ago, completes the seven-strong field.