Redicean put in another dazzling display at Kempton and heads to Cheltenham as a leading contender for the Triumph Hurdle.
He’s now generally a 5/1 second-favourite for the juvenile showpiece behind Nicky Henderson’s Apple’s Shakira. He’s one of the few youngsters to have had the opportunity of proving his ability on both testing and quicker ground.
There’s no doubting he was mightily impressive on Saturday. Travelling powerfully throughout, his jumping was accurate, and when asked to quicken he instantly put the race to bed, showing the acceleration that had been evident on a more testing surface.
The Paul Nicholls-trained Malaya did best of the rest, though she was seven-lengths back at the finish. That form-line suggests that Redicean has more to find when he arrives at Cheltenham. Nevertheless, his ability to travel powerfully through a race and then quicken on demand makes him a realistic contender. He also stayed 1m6f on the flat, which suggests that famous hill should hold no fears. Trainer Alan King was winning the race for the fourth time and completed the Adonis/Triumph double back in 2005 with Penzance.
The trainer was clearly excited by the performance, saying: “He has probably jumped 200 hurdles since last time. It was a rush to get him here for the Christmas meeting as we only got him in October. He was then gelded, so he was on the back burner for a while. He was always going to get better. I thought he was very accurate today.
“He got a mile-six on the Flat so he will stay. I've not deliberately kept coming here, it was just that's the way it suited. Penzance never saw the hill and he managed to win a Triumph. I don't think the ground matters. This is the best ground he has raced on so far. Better ground will probably help. He hadn't beaten much up until today and he has come through it well.”
His jockey, Wayne Hutchinson, was similarly impressed: “Breathtaking - I was adamant he would jump better in a truer run race and he proved that today and he settled better, always in my comfort zone and he’s gone through the gears with ease.”
Meanwhile at Newcastle, the star of the show was the Nicky Richards-trained Baywing. This was the nine-year-olds first attempt at a marathon trip, and clearly won’t be his last. Given a peach of a ride by Ryan Day, this son of Winged Love revelled in conditions. Held up off the pace, he began to make a forward move turning for home, before being delivered perfectly at the final fence. A wonderful leap at the last ensured he grabbed the initiative from West Of The Edge, before powering to a four-length success.
Richards told Press Association Sport: “He got into a good rhythm, jumped well and has seen it out well. After he won the Towton, though it was a good race to win at the time, it sort of limited our options to get experience into him. I've always thought he was a talented horse. Soft ground is important to him. It might be that we look at the Midlands National or something. We'll just see, we're in no rush and he's won a nice prize today.”
Away from the racecourse, there was important Cheltenham Festival news delivered by Colin Tizzard. In a meeting with owner Jean Bishop, the decision has been made to run Cue Card in the Ryanair Chase, rather than take on the Gold Cup. “We've discussed it and we thought he was in very good form over two-five, he has won the Ryanair, and the Gold Cup is a hard race and the best chance of winning is the Ryanair,” said Tizzard.
The trainer continued: “It was not a hard decision in the end. Our heads are ruling our hearts and it's the most obvious race for him and we can concentrate and go straight on into it. He is race fit and if we take that form from here to Cheltenham, we will have a chance. Paddy (Brennan) will be on board.”
Having lost to Sprinter Sacre in the Arkle of 2012, Cue Card returned a year later and romped to a stunning success in the Ryanair Chase, defeating First Lieutenant by nine-lengths. A month later he ran arguably his best ever race, when getting within five lengths of Sprinter Sacre in the Melling Chase at Aintree. Henderson’s superstar was at the peak of his powers, yet for much of the race Cue Card had the audacity to share the stage.
He was to step-up in trip late in 2013 and impressed in winning the Betfair Chase at Haydock. A month later he lost the King George having looked sure to win halfway up the straight. A poor season followed, before the sensational winter of 2015. Now aged nine, he took the Charlie Hall, the Betfair and the King George, but at Cheltenham came down at the third last when seemingly in with a great chance of landing the Gold Cup.
Having won another Betfair Chase in 2016, he came off second-best to Thistlecrack in the King George. Another terrific performance followed in the Ascot Chase at 2m5f, but connections could not resist stepping up for another crack at Cheltenham’s blue riband. Sadly, Cue Card was again to crash out at the third last, though on this occasion looked to be struggling at the time.
This campaign hadn’t gone to plan thus far, but he appeared back to somewhere near his best when chasing home Waiting Patiently at Ascot last time. A decision needed to be made as to his Cheltenham target. Tizzard had mentioned the ‘unfinished business’ of the Gold Cup, yet opting for the Ryanair is without doubt the sensible choice. Aside from Waiting Patiently, he hammered classy types in Frodon and Top Notch in that recent Ascot Chase. If he’s as good at The Festival, the 12-year-old may yet deliver a show-stopping finale.