Watch our tribute to the retired Cue Card and read Andy Stephens' words on the popular 12-year-old chaser below.
By Andy Stephens
All good things have to come to an end and on Tuesday morning connections of Cue Card called time of the wonderful gelding’s glittering career.
The nine-time Grade One winner, who has been a standing dish at the highest level of jump racing for eight glorious years, had been scheduled to have one final race in the bet365 Oaksey Chase at Sandown on Saturday week.
His homework has lacked some of its usual vigour, however, following a rare lacklustre run at the Cheltenham Festival last month, and so the curtain has fallen.
"We've taken the decision this morning to retire Cue Card," Joe Tizzard, assistant trainer to his father, Colin, said on Tuesday. "He wasn't working quite as well as he can and we didn't want to take him to Sandown if we weren't 100 per cent happy with him.
"We will still take him to Sandown to parade him, and to celebrate a great career. He has been an incredible horse for us and now he can look forward to a new chapter in his life."
Cue Card announced himself on the big stage when, as a four-year-old, he won the Champion Bumper at 40-1 in 2010.
Many of his rivals dwarfed the youngster in the paddock but in the race itself he was much the best and he hammered Al Ferof by eight lengths.
From then on he grew in size and stature, developing into a leading novice hurdler before graduating to fences and going from strength to strength.
He found Sprinter Sacre too hot to handle in the Arkle Chase but would go on to win eight times at the highest level over fences, in addition to many other memorable efforts in defeat.
In all, he won three Betfair Chases, a King George VI Chase, a Betfred Bowl Chase, a Ryanair Chase and two Ascot Chases.
Cue Card was generally a good jumper but, inexplicably, fell three from home in the 2016 and 2017 editions of the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
On the first occasion, travelling strongly, he had just nosed into the lead under regular rider Paddy Brennan. Had he won, he would have pocketed his connections a £1 million bonus but it was not to be.
It was one of the most expensive falls in the history of the sport.
Watch Cue Card's final success in the 2017 Ascot Chase
"I don't know why he’s had problems with the third last,” Tizzard said last month. “Do horses remember? Jockeys riding them might. I am sure I will remember.
“I’ve been through the falls in my mind and I don't think there is anything to say why that happened or why it should happen again. I always watch our horses and wouldn't look away.”
The Bishops, Jean and her late husband Bob, have owned horses for more than three decades and bought Cue Card for €52,000 nine years ago in Ireland.
“We would get the catalogue, write numbers down, then go and have a look,” Jean said. “With Cue Card, I liked the fact he was by King’s Theatre and when I looked at what his mother had done I was quite impressed with her record.
“It all fitted but nobody really knows what they are going to buy at the sales.”
Cue Card was scheduled to make his debut in a bumper at Exeter but his new owners, from Sussex, had a frustrating start with him.
They spent five hours reaching the course - only to arrive and fog to descened. The meeting was abandoned before he had the chance to run.
“We had a bowl of soup and then spent the next five hours driving home,” Bishop said.
Bob was superstitious and always wore the same clothes whenever Cue Card ran - “I must have looked like a bloody tramp” he said.
Tragically, he died days after Cue Card’s epic head defeat of Vautour in the 2015 King George.
Watch Cue Card's thrilling victory over Vautour at Kempton in 2015
Jean said at the time: “We’re all speechless because it happened so suddenly. We have been in racing a long time and the last six years have been perfect for us. Cue Card has given us so much pleasure and we were both so lucky to have him. When things go right in racing there is nothing like it.
“All our wins have been special but the King George was extra special. We felt privileged just to have a horse good enough to run in the race. We didn’t even think we had won it.
“Another of Colin’s owners came over to us straight after the race and said, ‘Well done’. Bob thanked him and said it was good the horse had finished second, only to be told Cue Card hadn’t come second but had won. We now have lovely memories of that day.”
Cue Card gave us all many magical memories. Racing will be united in wishing him a long and happy retirement.
TIZZARD'S TRUMP CARD:
1 Cue Card ran in 41 races, 36 of them at Grade One or Grade Two level. He won 16 and was runner-up in another 11.
2 His nine Grade One wins comprise three Betfair Chases, a King George VI Chase, a Betfred Bowl Chase, a Ryanair Chase, two Ascot Chases and the Champion Bumper.
3 The 12-year-old gelding has won £1,447,454 in prize money.
4 He was 40-1 when winning at The Festival in 2010.