Cue Card romped to his third success in the Betfair Chase, endorsing his status as the best staying chaser in the business.
The eagerly anticipated clash with 2015 Gold Cup winner Coneygree came to fruition, with the pair at the head of affairs throughout, before stretching clear turning for home. Over the fourth last fence, Paddy Brennan allowed Cue Card to stride on, and although Coneygree battled bravely, he was unable to live with a power-packed performance from Tizzard’s star. Kept up to his work, the winner was 15 lengths clear at the line, with Brennan punching the air in delight.
Speaking to Channel 4 straight after the victory, the winning trainer appeared bursting with pride, when saying: “He's absolutely sluiced up today and he's every bit as good as he's ever been. Paddy gave him an absolutely perfect ride. We schooled him this week and he jumped beautifully. He made it look so easy today. As for the £1m bonus it's like last year; we are the only ones still in it! We went for the King George last year and that is the route we'll take again.”
Brennan was ecstatic with the success. He’s fully aware of his good fortune to be partnering such a horse, and appreciative of the opportunity. And you can be sure that nothing would thrill him more than another crack at the Gold Cup, and the chance of putting to bed the memory of last year’s third last fence disaster.
“I always get too excited, but I appreciate days like today,” Brennan told Racing UK. “If I had dreamt a thousand times in my life, I would never have thought I’d be lucky enough to ride a horse like him. He felt unbelievable, just how he should feel. I was there a bit soon, but I just knew I am riding for a man who gets his horses extremely fit, and I was going to give Coneygree every race I could. For me, he is a dream. It's a privilege to ride him.”
The Bradstocks were equally thrilled with the comeback performance of Coneygree. Off the track for just over a year, he was sent to the front by Richard Johnson, and jumped with all his old exuberance. Foot perfect throughout, it came as no surprise when he appeared to weaken down the home straight. Cue Card was certainly much the superior horse on the day. Whether that proves to be the case next time, when both are match fit, remains to be seen.
There’s every chance that the pair will meet again in the King George, with Sara Bradstock hinting at Kempton being the likely next step. She was pretty bullish in her assessment of the race, when saying: “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 went on: “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.”
The pair head the market for the Christmas showpiece, and ‘Cue Card versus Coneygree - The Sequel’ is a mouth-watering proposition.
On Sunday, news came that both had come out of the race well. “He's absolutely fine,” said Tizzard. “I've watched it (the Betfair Chase) back a couple of times, and it was never really in any doubt. It's amazing how he handles that ground now. He just seems to float on it because he's not a horse with a knee action at all. Paddy (Brennan) was very good on him and said he was never even thinking he would not win.”
Thankfully news from Old Manor Stables was equally positive. Sara Bradstock told At The Races: “He's actually fine. In fact, he's surprisingly as fresh as a daisy. He's recovered much quicker than I thought he would. He got tired in that ground, but he was beaten before that because he was a little bit ring-rusty. After a significant injury, all you want to see is that the horse can still do it and that he still has the engine. He answered both of those questions.”