By Andy Stephens
Colin Tizzard has revealed that Cue Card will run in the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham next month in preference to the Gold Cup.
Connections had spoken of “unfinished business” in the latter race after successive falls in the blue riband event for the past two years.
However, they believe the 2m5f contest, which Cue Card won in 2013, offers their evergreen stalwart with the better chance of chalking up a tenth Grade One triumph. He is a general 10-1.
Tizzard and Jean Bishop, the owner of Cue Card, teamed up to win the first race on the card at Kempton on Saturday with Kings Walk and the trainer later announced Festival running plans for the horse who helped put him on the map.
“Cue Card has won a Ryanair and he was very good at Ascot last week over two mile five, and he’s 12 years old,” Tizzard said. “It boiled down to which race we had the best chance of winning and we think that’s the Ryanair, so that’s where he is going.
“Me and Jean talked about it two or three times and I think we were both leaning towards it all the time.
“It’s no good making these decisions and then changing it, so now we’re sure we don’t need to talk about it again for three weeks.”
Asked if the trip or opposition were factors, he replied: “He’s never won over three miles two and a half at Cheltenham, so we were taking (his ability to stay) on trust. We know he’s won there over two five.”
Cue Card shows he retained most of his ability and zest, if not all, when runner-up to Waiting Patiently in a thrilling Betfair Ascot Chase last weekend.
The King’s Theatre gelding has been winning or holding his own at the highest level for eight years, ever since winning the Champion Bumper at 40-1 in 2010.
Incredibly, 35 of Cue Card’s 40 races have been at either Grade One or Grade Two level, and he has won almost £1.5 million in prize-money.
If he wins at The Festival he is likely to be retired on the spot. If not, a final outing at Aintree in April is likely.