Veteran hopes to be on cue in King George
Doughty stayer Cue Card will endeavour to show his precociously talented novice stablemate Thistlecrack there’s still life in the old legs in the King George VI Chase today.
Cue Card has two years and many top class wins under his belt over his fellow Colin Tizzard-trained star but Thistlecrack has taken to the larger obstacles-he had no peers over hurdles last season-with such Èlan he could even start favourite.
Such is their respective reputations that many have taken fright and only three others will go to post-the smallest field since 1984 — for the winner’s prize of £119,000 (140,000euros, $146,000).
For Cue Card though victory will put him one win away-in the blue riband The Cheltenham Gold Cup in March next year-for a million pound bonus having already won the first of the ‘Triple Crown’ the Betfair Lancashire Chase earlier this term. His hopes of it last season were dashed when having won the first two legs he came to grief in the Gold Cup.
Tizzard, who has been training since 1994 when he set up on the family farm in the South West of England, says he is blessed to have two such outstanding horses but the 60-year-old has a soft spot for the old warrior.
“Cue Card has always been the apple of my eye since he won the Champion Bumper in 2010,” said Tizzard.
“He has been strutting his stuff in the big races for six years now. “He is still a good horse. No doubt if he arrives on his A Game he will take a lot of beating.
“He is just a happy horse.” Thistlecrack for Tizzard is an entirely different type of horse and he is not overly complimentary about his looks. “He is a great brute and resembles more a hunter,” said Tizzard, whose son former jockey Joe is his assistant. “However, when we get him to the races and we put a saddle on him he looks fantastic.” Chief danger to spoiling a Tizzard 1-2 should be the two-time winner of the race Silviniaco Conti trained by champion trainer Paul Nicholls.
He was well-beaten by Cue Card in the Betfair but Nicholls, whose horses are in fine fettle at the moment, believes it was his fault for running him too soon after his previous outing.
“I don’t expect him to beat them but he is better racing right-handed and whatever people say you have to stay to be competitive in a King George and we know he stays extra well,” said Nicholls, who has given his runner a spin out hunting to keep him focussed. The other two runners are Josses Hill, who tries 3 milles (4800metres) for the first time, and Tea For Two who will be ridden by woman jockey Lizzie Kelly for her stepfather Nick Williams.
Kelly, 23, rode Tea For Two to victory in the Grade One Kauto Star Chase at Kempton last year and despite only three winners thusfar this season she says they are not without hope.
“The race itself should play into his hands,” said Kelly. “There’s a glimmer of hope there!” —AFP