CHELTENHAM: Bullish Tizzard issues Cue Card challenge to rivals

Trainer Colin Tizzard has challenged Cue Card’s rivals to take him on from the front in today’s Ryanair Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.

The high-class seven-year-old cashed in on a final-fence mistake by Captain Chris in the Betfair Ascot Chase in February, when he made virtually all of the running to win by six lengths.

Tizzard and his jockey-son, Joe, are likely to employ similarly positive tactics in the Ryanair, which was chosen over the Queen Mother Champion Chase as Cue Card’s Festival target.

“Everything’s right for him,” said the Dorset handler.

“It’s going to be beautiful ground – I don’t think it was tacky at all on Tuesday – so that’s obviously a big plus.

“Then again, he has winning form on soft, so the ground wouldn’t bother me a great deal.

“He’s had a quiet week – there’s nothing more we can do now.

“It’s a championship race and on any one day one horse will run 10lb below, or better, than what he is capable of.

“We respect all the other horses, but are very happy with what we have.

“Joe will jump off and if anyone wants to try and go faster than him, they are welcome to do so.”

First Lieutenant bypassed the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup in preference for this two-mile-five-furlong Grade Two.

Mouse Morris’ inmate was narrowly denied by Tidal Bay in an epic renewal of the Lexus Chase on his last start over Christmas.

“I wouldn’t be overly worried about coming back in trip on this ground,” said Morris.

“He’s getting that bit stronger now and he has run well on bottomless ground before.

“We’ve got to stop making excuses for him now.

“It’s time for him to go and do it on the track.”

Albertas Run won the Ryanair in 2010 and 2011 and finished a brave second behind Riverside Theatre 12 months ago.

He has, however, been sidelined since the Melling Chase at Aintree last April.

“Albertas has been a superstar for us,” said trainer Jonjo O’Neill.

“He’s a great little horse and he has a great sporting owner (Trevor Hemmings) and the horse has given him and all of us a lot of pleasure.

“I don’t know why it is, but he just doesn’t do well in really bad weather, and he’s always been like that.

“He’s really good in the autumn when it’s nice and then through the winter he likes to hibernate.

“Then when he gets a bit of sun on his back in the spring he comes alive,” O’Neill said.

Trainer Nicky Henderson hopes veterinary treatment has worked the oracle for Riverside Theatre, whose one appearance this season yielded a sixth-placed finish in the King George.

“He will go back to the Ryanair Chase and is in good form,” said the Seven Barrows handler.

“We thought he had a wind issue after running in the King George.

“We sent him to Bristol University to be checked out – they discovered that his wind was fine but he had bad ulcers which have now been successfully treated.”

Trainer Martin Keighley believes a fully-fit Champion Court can cause a mini-upset if his best form is factored into the equation.

He said: “If he runs to the sort of level that saw him finish second to Sir Des Champs in the Jewson, then it must give him an outstanding chance.

“He failed to see out the trip in the King George on heavy ground but he had everything beat turning for home and a reproduction of that would see him go very close.”

Minehead handler Philip Hobbs is confident Menorah has stout each-way claims.

“He’s very well indeed,” said Hobbs.

“We’ve got a good chance of being placed.

“I can’t see him quite winning, but he’s got a chance.”

Nick Williams is realistic about the claims of For Non Stop, who needs good ground to be at his best.

“I think he’s got an OK chance,” said the Devon handler.

“He won a handicap at Aintree with 10st 11lb, and to be taking on Grade One horses is a big step.”

Joint-owner Andy Stewart is similarly cautious in his assessment of Ghizao’s claims.

He said: “He’s got a little to do on official ratings, but he’s been a superstar for us as a novice and we weren’t going to put him in a handicap.

“He’s well enough and there’ll be no problem with two miles and five.”

O’Neill expressed his satisfaction about the prospect of drying ground before the Ryanair.

“We could have done with the sun shining for the last 10 days but the ground is drying out a bit,” said the Jackdaws Castle handler.

“He’s a year older but his weight is good, his work is good and we can come here with a bit of confidence.

“I’m very happy with him.”

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