'Different class' Cue Card again proves ace in Betfair Chase pack
Cue Card produced an electrifying performance to win the Betfair Chase at Haydock for the third time in four years and put himself in line for a second crack at a £1million bonus.
Colin Tizzard's big-race veteran went agonisingly close to scooping the mammoth pot offered by Jockey Club Racecourses last season when falling three out in the Cheltenham Gold Cup after winning the Betfair and the King George VI Chase.
The Boxing Day showpiece at Kempton will again be the next stop for Cue Card after he defeated Coneygree, the 2015 Gold Cup hero, who went down with all guns blazing on his first start for 377 days.
Coneygree made a brave attempt to lead all the way under Richard Johnson, who was replacing the injured Nico de Boinville, but he ultimately had to play second fiddle to Cue Card, who had fitness on his side.
Paddy Brennan was always happy on Cue Card, who had benefited greatly for his reappearance in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby three weeks earlier.
Once he sent Cue Card to the front four out, the 15-8 favourite put the race to bed with authority and scored by 15 lengths. Coneygree was 13 lengths ahead of French challenger Vezelay, with dual Betfair winner Silviniaco Conti fourth.
"The horse did have a good blow (after the Charlie Hall) and we saw that afterwards," said Tizzard.
"He does like this ground - he sort of floats on top. He didn't have a hard race at all, did he?
"I'm just chuffed for the horse really, to keep on doing it. We've got one or two other good ones and (people think) with Cue Card maybe time is catching up, but it's not - he's every bit as good as he's ever been.
"He's got the best place in the stable, he can see everyone and he deserves it - he's our star.
"He made it look easy today and it's fantastic for everyone concerned. He enjoys his life, he enjoys racing and wouldn't turn a hair coming here. He wants to be here at the races.
"We all knew what Coneygree was going to do. He's had a year off, but he's a fantastic horse."
Brennan was pleased to erase the memory of that defeat at Wetherby where the Cue Card team admitted getting the riding tactics wrong.
"Colin and all his team at home had him in some form. I hacked him to the start and I knew then things were going to be so much different (to Wetherby) today," said the jockey.
"Colin stood up for me at Wetherby, but he'd no need to. Things were just a bit quick for him and it was a combination of a lot of things. Today he was the Cue Card I know, at Wetherby I never had that. When he's in the form he was today you can ride him any way you want - he's different class.
"We've had an unbelievable day today, Cue Card's shown what he can do. Honestly, if I'd dreamt a thousand times in my life I never thought I'd be lucky enough to ride a horse like him.
"I felt a lot of pressure today and I felt maybe it got away in the Gold Cup last year, but after today I think we've got a chance of putting that right."
Cue Card was cut to 9-1 from 33s to win the Chase Triple Crown by Paddy Power, who also trimmed him to 6-4 from 7-2 for the 32Red King George VI Chase and to 6-1 from 12s for the Gold Cup.
RaceBets shortened Coneygree to 8-1 for the Gold Cup, a point bigger than Cue Card, and his connections were understandably thrilled with the nine-year-old on his comeback from injury.
Sara Bradstock, wife and assistant of trainer Mark Bradstock, said: "To see him run like that and wanting to go, we couldn't have asked for any more.
"You have to remember there's been no soft ground to train him on. For the other horses who are race-fit it's different, but he is not just coming back after a year but coming back on a surface he's not ready for.
"It's his favourite surface in the long run, but he's not ready. He's had to do all his work on the all-weather. It's lovely to have him back and his stamina is extraordinary. Richard said he got tired, and then for a moment he wanted to go again. We'll be back - he won't beat us again!"
She added: "We'll probably go to the King George, but the man from Ireland is always trying to tempt us over there for the Lexus. He doesn't worry about anything like that (travelling), so there's no reason not to go.
"As long as he comes out of that feeling good and well and happy, I would think he'll go for the King George. That would be the immediate plan, but the Irish race is not out of the question."
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Source: At The Races