After winning a total of nine Grade 1 races, two Cheltenham Festival victories and a King George VI Chase crown, Colin Tizzard’s stable superstar Cue Card has been retired. Here, Paul Robinson looks back at some of his career highlights…
17 March 2010 – Champion Bumper
This was the race where it all began for Cue Card. A winner of a 1m 5 ½f Class 6 Bumper at Fontwell in his only previous start, Colin Tizzard’s charge went into Cheltenham’s Champion Bumper as an unconsidered 40/1 shot.
One of the fancied runners that day was Paul Nicholls’ Al Ferof, and as they turned for home, his jockey, Ruby Walsh, must have thought he was on course for yet another Festival winner.
However, as commentator, Richard Hoiles stated, Cue Card was “absolutely cantering behind the leader” Mere seconds later Hoiles was declaring this “a one horse race” as Joe Tizzard loosened the rein on his mount to cruise past his rival. The distance was eight lengths at the line, as a star was born.
14 Mar 2013 – Ryanair Chase
Fast forward three years and Cue Card was back at the greatest show on turf for his fourth festival appearance. While his career must still have been considered a success up to that point, he hadn’t quite lived up to his ample potential.
A fourth placed finish in the Supreme Novices in 2011 – a race won by Al Ferof – was then followed by a switch to chasing which saw him run into a certain Sprinter Sacre.
After failing to cope with the mud and the step up to 3 miles in the 2012 renewal of the King George, Cue Card was switched back down to 2m 5f, and he was sent off the 7/2 second favourite for the Ryanair Chase.
The swagger was back that day, and what a swagger it was. Joe Tizzard made sure his mount was the first to jump the opening fence, and after a slight error at the third, he jumped like a stag the rest of the way.
First Lieutenant was the nine length runner-up, but there was only one horse in charge that day, and it was the 2010 Champion Bumper winner.
21 Nov 2015 – Betfair Chase
By the time of the 2015 Betfair Chase at Haydock Park, there were a few doubts as to how good Cue Card now was. Injury had forced him to miss the 2014 and 2015 Cheltenham festivals, and he had flopped in two more King Georges.
A winning return in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby three weeks prior had given some of us hope that he could once again dine at the top table of jumps racing – a belief that was further strengthened by the bullishness of Colin Tizzard, who had put his stable star’s issues down to a choking problem that had since been rectified.
Nevertheless, this was a Grade 1 over 3m, and he was up against Silviniaco Conti – a horse that had beaten him three times in the space of 12 months from 2013 to 2014.
This was a new Cue Card though, as the Jean Bishop owned gelding could get air into his lungs again and, new jockey, Paddy Brennan, was happy to stalk his rival early on.
With just under a third of the three miles to go, Brennan pushed Cue Card up on the inside to go nose to nose with his old rival. Conti responded by striding on again by a couple of lengths, but you just felt that Brennan was marking Noel Fehily’s card.
As the third last loomed, Cue Card, was travelling much the better and breezed past the two time King George winner to take the lead. Stamina and the breathing issues still needed to be taken on trust, but the apple of Colin Tizzard’s eye repaid the faith in spades by effortlessly cruising to a seven length victory.
26 Dec 2015 – King George VI
A mere seven weeks later, Cue Card was lining up for his fourth crack at the King George on Boxing Day, and this was a star studded renewal.
The participants included Vautour, Don Cossack, Smad Place and old rivals Al Ferof and Silviniaco Conti. Despite the competition, the Betfair Chase winner was still only a 9/2 shot, while Don Cossack headed the market at 15/8.
To put this into context, what unfolded over the course of the next 363.5 seconds was arguably Cue Card’s greatest performance. Make no mistake, the horse does not like Kempton Park. He is never at his best there and his record in the race left a lot to be desired.
You wouldn’t have been able to tell Paddy Brennan any of that though. The new partnership were 2/2 and a win here would put them within one race of the £1m bonus.
Cue Card was settled in midfield and he jumped his way quietly around as Silviniaco Conti and Vautour led the way. By the time they were in the back straight for the final time, Ruby Walsh strode on on Vautour, but the move was covered by Brennan as he manoeuvred his mount into second place.
The roar of the crowd was noticeably louder than usual as the big three turned for home in first, second and third. Cue Card was sandwiched between his Irish trained rivals and it was clear that the Susannah Ricci owned Vautour was going the best of the trio.
Nothing changed three out, but at the second last, three became two when Don Cossack crumpled on landing. Vautour was a couple of lengths clear and had the rail to keep him straight, but as the duo flung themselves over the 18th and final fence, the gap had been halved to one.
With 50 yards to go, your money would have been on Vautour, but you can bet your bottom dollar that your heart would have been on Cue Card.
Finding for pressure, Cue Card edged closer and closer to the leader, and as the son of King’s Theatre drew level in the shadow of the post, his final act was to stick his neck out and win by a head. Take a bow.
19 Nov 2016 – Betfair Chase
The £1m bonus turned out to be a £1m nightmare as Cue Card fell three out in the Gold Cup when going ominously well. Brennan blamed himself, but Colin Tizzard certainly didn’t, and he kept the rider on-board at Aintree to gain small compensation in the Bowl.
By the time winter rolled around, Cue Card has been beaten twice. First in a season finale at Punchestown and then in the Charlie Hall at Wetherby in October.
There were whispers that age was beginning to catch up with the 2010 Bumper winner. He was now 10 years old and had had a tough career. That being said, Cue Card was still sent off the 15/8 favourite, as he bid to win his third Betfair Chase.
The familiar face of Silviniaco Conti was again in the line-up, but the main rival was the 2015 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner, Coneygree. Ridden by Richard Johnson, Coneygree was on the comeback trail following injury, as he made his first start in a year.
The race comments about Cue Card in the Racing Post read – Held up, handy 4th, went 2nd 11th, big jump 12th, led approaching 4 out, soon in command, drew clear from 2 out, driven out and stayed on well.
“In command”. And he was. There was only one winner that day, and in cheers the Haydock crowd usually reserved for Kauto Star, Cue Card not only cemented his legacy, but also his place as the new people’s horse.
Source:: Betfair UK Horse Racing News