Road to Cheltenham 20th February 2017

In what was a very eventful week, sometimes for the wrong reasons, we learned a lot more clues in the build up to the Cheltenham Festival which is just three weeks away. Identity Thief is our latest Festival casualty sadly. The Henry De Bromhead chaser would have run in the Arkle Chase but he has suffered a setback and will probably run at Fairyhouse in April. In other news, Jezki was bitterly disappointing in the Red Mills Trial Hurdle at the weekend, getting turned over by Tombstone. He will surely now go for the Stayers Hurdle.

This Week’s Racing

The BetBright Handicap Chase is the big race of the weekend at Kempton Park, a race that has been won by Nacarat, Rocky Creek and Theatre Guide in recent years. The Eider Chase will also take place at Newcastle racecourse so we are in for another action packed weekend, that’s for sure.

Performance of the Week

The amazing Colin Tizzard trained CUE CARD won his ninth career Grade 1 in the Betfair Ascot Chase on Saturday to the delight of favourite backers and Gold Cup hopefuls. Now an eleven year old, he showed no sign of greyness and proved he still retains a huge amount of ability with his second win in the prestigious race, for all the opposition were rated well below him. Royal Regatta, an Ascot specialist, made the running under Richard Johnson who tried to turn the race into a stamina test but Cue Card’s class told in the end and he flew home to win by 15 lengths from the staying on Shantou Flyer.

Colin Tizzard said “It’s nice to see his well-being, really. After the last race (second to stablemate Thistlecrack in the King George) he was a bit wrong and had a big, fat leg and we said he wasn’t right, but he has been perfect all the way through.”

“He is 11 and you wonder ‘how many times can he keep doing this?’ but he is back again. Today he jumped beautifully and he destroyed them. It was everything you want to see and more.”

“Paddy Brennan was instrumental, he said it would not hurt to go back to two miles five, as they go a fast pace and it will be Cheltenham Festival pace and instead of having three months off you can take this in, then back off him a bit.”

“In the ring he looked as well as ever and on form he needed to do that. He has been a brilliant horse for a long time. I spoke to Jean (Bishop, owner) and it is her ambition to win the Gold Cup.”

He added: “The plan is to run Cue Card, Thistlecrack and Native River in the Gold Cup, and possibly Theatre Guide as well.”

Paddy Brennan said: “It was a great performance. The ground is really dead. It was hard to know what pace we were going.

“When I looked round after the last I thought we were only two or lengths clear – that sums up what a great horse he is. I knew this trip was on the sharp side, but he was brilliant.”

“He’s been massive for my career – he’s changed my life over the last couple of years.”

Other Cheltenham Festival News

  • The Paul Nicholls trained Zarkandar is now best priced 25/1 for the Stayers’ Hurdle after a fine victory in the Rendlesham Hurdle at Ascot. The favourite for the race, Agrapart, jumped poorly and has been eased to 50/1. Jezki has been eased to 10/1 for the Stayers’ after his defeat to Tombstone.
  • Impressive winner The World’s End is now best priced 16/1 for the Albert Bartlett after his 9 length victory for Tom George at Ascot in Grade 2 company.
  • Wonderful Charm carried on in winning spirit for Paul Nicholls at the weekend and he is now best priced 4/1 for the Foxhunters’ Chase next month.
  • JP McManus has a nice headache on his hands for the Champion Hurdle as he owns both Buveur D’Air and Yanworth who won again in the Grade 2 Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton. Visually it wasn’t a very impressive display but the nature of the race didn’t suit him. A strong Cheltenham gallop should see him right there. View our Champion Hurdle tip and preview.
  • Sandra Hughes’ Acapella Bourgeois won the Grade 2 Ten Up Novice Chase by a staggering 32 lengths at Navan, against horses who are rated higher than him. He was given a very soft lead by the other jockeys in the race. He is now 16/1 for the RSA Chase but will need soft ground.

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