I suspect I’m doomed never to make my fortune on Cue Card but I just can’t resist getting back off the canvas and reaching for my wallet again. His chase debut last October was one of the most impressive I’ve seen and I started backing him then, with considerable confidence, for the Arkle.
On Nov 11th he turned out at Cheltenham against Grands Crus and I had a big bet on him. He tipped Joe Tizzard out of the saddle at the 11th fence. JT had, I decided, made the error of trying to restrain the horse who seemed, to my eye, to be desperate to be allowed his head so he could take the fences in his stride.
A measure of my mania . . . for the first time in my life I wrote to a trainer, emailing Colin Tizzard to say the horse plainly needed to be given his head and not interfered with. Mr Tizzard wisely hit the delete button.
I decided to get my cash back, and more, at Newbury on Nov 25th by which time the Tizzards had figured out for themselves that the horse should not be restrained. He led throughout and jumped well bar one blunder, only to be caught and beaten on the nod by Bobsworth to whom he was conceding half a stone. Now, Cue Card’s head carriage isn’t the loveliest thing but his jockey’s that day was even worse. Joe Tizzard has a habit of looking round after the last and he did so here when two lengths clear. That look round must unbalance a horse to some degree (try doing it on a bike) and it might well have cost him the race.
Nonetheless, given his natural speed and the speculation that he hadn’t quite seen out the twenty furlongs at Newbury (tosh, in my opinion) I backed him again for the Arkle.
On December 9th a big black party pooper called Sprinter Sacre jumped his way to the top of the Arkle market and I settled for cursing him and having a saver at 7s just in case.
On the last day of the year Cue Card gave For Non Stop half a stone and a four length beating at Newbury, refilling my bank account in the process. The Black Aeroplane, as Nicky Henderson calls Sprinter Sacre, left Cue Card behind at Cheltenham. CC had failed honourably and I ended up with a small profit thanks to the early season saver on SS.
You might have seen Cue Card’s seasonal debut at Exeter the other day when he hammered Menorah, Edgardo Sol (who, by the way, I think will win a nice race one day). He was reported as jumping slickly; that’s not the way I saw it. Yes he made some nice jumps, but he was far from slick at every one due to his habit of screwing when JT tries to organise him.
I’m convinced that what this horse needs is a strong even pace throughout and the chance to attack his fences: restraint upsets his rhythm. I’ve little doubt that the King George trip will suit him perfectly if his jockey sets that spot-on pace from the outset. The others will simply melt away as their power fades. If I could be guaranteed he’d get that kind of ride, I’d back him with a huge amount of confidence. As it is, I’ll have a decent bet at 10/1 and hope for the best. I suspect he will be half this price come the day.
Of the others I respect Grands Crus, though my confidence that CC would have beaten him at Cheltenham had he stood up compels me to stay with the Tizzard horse. Long Run is well over-rated due to his Gold Cup success and he has trouble bending his back properly under pressure.
Riverside Theatre is a good horse though he managed only three outings in each of the past two seasons and is far from certain to turn up.
Silvianaco Conti has met Cue Card twice and lost each time. On his Aintree showing, Finian’s Rainbow has a good chance of getting the trip here and I’d rate him the main danger.