Card on cue for Betfair defence

Colin Tizzard is hopeful history can repeat itself as Cue Card aims to retain his crown in what promises to be another thrilling renewal of the Betfair Chase at Haydock today.

Card on cue for Betfair defence

The eight-year-old might be a dual Cheltenham Festival winner having annihilated the opposition in the 2010 Champion Bumper and landed last year’s Ryanair Chase, but his brilliant display on Merseyside 12 months ago was arguably a career-best effort.

That sensational performance came off the back of a decent effort in defeat in the Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter and he has followed the same path this year, finishing fourth in Devon earlier this month on his first start since filling the runner-up spot in the King George VI Chase at Kempton on St Stephen’s Day.

With the pelvic injury that saw him miss the back-end of last year seemingly behind his stable star, Tizzard expects Cue Card to be at the top of his game.

“Cue Card has come out of the Haldon Gold Cup very well and the run has improved him both mentally and physically,” said Tizzard.

“He was coming back from a near 11-month lay-off at Exeter and was trying to give masses of weight to really exciting two-milers.

“All my horses have been improving for a run this season and I know he has as well.

“He is a lot tighter and going from Exeter to Haydock worked a treat last year, so hopefully it will be the same this time around.”

Cue Card will likely need to bounce back to his best if he is to emerge triumphant once again as he prepares to lock horns with a couple of familiar foes in Dynaste and Silviniaco Conti.

The David Pipe-trained Dynaste was second on his seasonal reappearance in the Haydock feature a year ago before going on to Cheltenham glory in the Ryanair.

He once again makes his first start of the campaign in the three-mile Grade One.

Pipe said: “He’s in good form and I expect him to run a good race like last year.

“Whether that’s enough to win or not, I’ll let you know afterwards.”

Dynaste’s big-race jockey Tom Scudamore told At The Races: “He seems in good order at home.

“His form last year was very, very good.

“I sat on him earlier in the week and was very happy with him.

“I’m as happy with him as I’ve ever been.”

Paul Nicholls saddled the legendary Kauto Star to win the Betfair Chase on four occasions and also struck with Silviniaco Conti in 2012.

The year the eight-year-old struck gold at Haydock, he had previously won the Charlie Hall Chase, while last year he was third having not had the benefit of a prep run.

Nicholls did send his charge to Wetherby this time around, and although he disappointed in finishing fifth, the champion trainer is confident it had the desired effect ahead of this assignment.

Nicholls said: “He’s great. He’s come on for that run at Wetherby the other day. He had a nice run round.

“The ground was testing enough and it was an easy three miles but he has had a run and a day out, which is what we wanted and it won’t be lost on him.

“I think last year at Haydock he probably needed the run. Hopefully this time he won’t.

“The more rain, the better.”

Silviniaco Conti, wearing cheek pieces for the first time, is one of six horses in the field to have run in the Charlie Hall, headed by the Philip Hobbs-trained winner Menorah.

The Minehead maestro has enjoyed a spectacular start to the campaign along with stable jockey Richard Johnson, with Wishfull Thinking and Garde La Victoire among those to have also enjoyed big-race success.

Johnson said: “The horses are obviously in great form and we know Menorah was in great form when he won at Wetherby.

“Fingers crossed they don’t get too much rain. I think that’s the main concern for both myself and Philip.

“It’s disappointing he’s not going to get his favoured conditions, but at the same time he deserves to be in the race tomorrow and we’ll see what happens.

“I’m sure when he gets on the better ground in the spring he’ll be happier.”

Charlie Hall-runner-up Taquin Du Seuil is the potential rising star in the line-up and with Tony McCoy still on the sidelines, Barry Geraghty comes in for the ride.

“He’s obviously a very good horse. He ran well in Wetherby. I think a drop of rain would probably do him no harm,” said Geraghty.

“He’s a horse that seems to cope well with soft ground. It will be a high-class race with Paul Nicholls’ horse (Silviniaco Conti) and Cue Card and Dynaste and everything in it. It’s going to be a hot race.

“I rode him in a novice hurdle when he was second to My Tent Or Yours at Ascot, so I’ve an idea how he goes, but I’ve seen plenty of him over the years.”

Charlie Hall third, fourth and seventh – Double Ross, Medermit and The Giant Bolster – are all in contention again.

David Bridgwater’s The Giant Bolster, who has been placed in the last three renewals of the Cheltenham Gold Cup, will be ridden by Tom Cannon for the first time.

Cannon said: “It’s fantastic to get the ride on him. I only found out Thursday morning I was definitely going to ride him so I went and sat on him. I gave him a little pop (over a fence). I’m really looking forward to it.

“He felt great. He did a buck at the top of the gallop with me to show he’s feeling well and he jumped well, so that’s good.

“It’s great to ride in a race like that. It’s a privilege and hopefully he gives his running.

“You want your name to be out there on Saturdays. It’s what people take notice of. It’s brilliant.

“I’ll be going through the race with Bridgy, so hopefully everything will go smoothly.”

The field is completed by Harry Topper and trainer Kim Bailey is delighted his star chaser is set to encounter his favoured soft ground.

He said: “I’m very happy with him. He was prepared to run two or three weeks ago and we’ve just kept him ticking over since then.

“In an ideal world we’d have liked to run in the Charlie Hall. He was trained to run there but unfortunately the ground went against us.

“He’s in good form, though, and I’m sure he’ll run well and won’t disgrace himself.

“Whether he’s good enough to win is another thing, but we’ll see.”

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