Cue Card the Haydock hero again
Cue Card brought the house down with a third Betfair Chase victory as he got the best of a thrilling fight with Coneygree, whose frontrunning tactics teed up the winner for a late challenge.
Colin Tizzard and his team felt that they had made too much use of Cue Card on his seasonal reappearance in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby.
So rather than take on the front-running Coneygree, Paddy Brennan had the 10-year-old anchored in almost last in the early stages and opted to play a waiting game.
Seeyouatmidnight had pulled up before five out with Irish Cavalier was struggling and Silviniaco Conti beginning to come to the end of his tether.
Cue Card had by that stage gradually crept closer to Coneygree though with French raider Vezelay stalking the pair. The latter could never quite get to the front two though, and coming off the home turn the race was between Coneygree and Cue Card, who hit the front three from home, seemingly full of running.
He still hadn't shaken off the rallying Coneygree at the second last, but the former Gold Cup winner began to tire after that obstacle, leaving only the last fence in between Cue Card and a third victory in the Grade One contest.
He safely negotiated that obstacle to claim a notable success and one which secures the first leg of a possible £1million bonus offered by Jockey Club Racecourses if he can add the King George VI Chase and Cheltenham Gold Cup to his haul.
As the crowd rang out with three cheers for Cue Card, an emotional Tizzard said: "He means everything. We've got a few other ones now, but then he comes and does this.
"He's absolutely sluiced up today and he's every bit as good as he's ever been. Paddy gave him an absolutely perfect ride.
"We schooled him this week and he jumped beautifully – he made it look so easy today.
"As for the £1millon bonus, it's like last year – we are the only ones still in it! We went for the King George last year and that is the route we'll take again.
"You think to yourself 'Can he really come back and do it again another year?' – especially after his last run at Wetherby. Then he goes and does that."
Connections of Coneygree said they were "over the moon" with the run of their charge on his first start for more than a year.
Trainer Mark Bradstock said: "He jumped super, he'd been off a long time, so we're delighted," he said.
"He's been off for over a year, so he is going to get tired. Coming to a Grade One first time out is quite an ask.
"He jumped super, travelled great. It looked like he was really enjoying himself. Hopefully he's all right tomorrow."
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