Cue Card is now just about the most popular jumps horse in training in Britain and the horse can bring the house down by winning the Betfair Chase at Haydock for the fourth time. The new kid on the block is Bristol De Mai who has winning form on the course but Cue Card has the experience top prevail in the biggest race of the season to date which sadly Sizing John will miss.
The statistics indicate that a chaser eliminates jumping errors with experience and competing in more races. Cue Card has now fallen in three of his last 10 chases but only failed to complete once in 21 previous starts over fences. He unseated the jockey in his second chase so the horse is making more mistakes during the latter stages of his chasing career. The Haydock race goers will be holding their breath during the Betfair Chase but Cue Card is ideally suited to the race.
Chasers in Cue Card’s ratings brackets have usually read the book, worn the t-shirt, etc. There are extenuating circumstances for the falls and a low sun contributed to the latest mishap at Wetherby. Cue Card has fallen in the last two Cheltenham Gold Cups but that is the toughest race of the season that places huge demands on horses. They say practice makes perfect but Cue Card is making more mistakes on getting older and not learning from them.
Cue Card won’t have things all his own way at Haydock because Bristol De Mai is proven on the track and won the race at Wetherby in which Cue Card fell. However, the job has been made easier by the absence of Sizing John who is not being risked on what could be bottomless ground at Haydock. Connections were aiming the horse at the £1million bonus for winning the three biggest conditions chases in Britain but that plan has been put on hold for this year at least.
The thinking behind not running Sizing John was that his main rivals are race fit and the horse is more likely to be found out on heavy ground. The north-west of England has seen plenty of rain. I know that because the other night I left the house without a brolly or raincoat and two minutes down the road a monsoon occurred out of nowhere. Id just reached that point on my journey where turning back would have got me just as wet as plodding on. Sizing John won’t be making the journey from Ireland.
The Betfair Chase has been devalued because Sizing John won the Gold Cup, Irish Gold Cup and Punchestown Festival equivalent last season. The horse will now run at Punchestown in a prep-race for the King George at Kempton. The winner of the Betfair Chase will probably be in opposition to keep the dream of winning the lucrative bonus alive. That horse should be Cue Card.
Kauto Star won the Haydock race four times and Silviniaco Conti prevailed in 2012 and 2014 so there is a history of multiple winners. In fact six of the last 10 winners had already won the race so history will repeat itself if Cue Card does the business again in the third most prestigious chase of the season after the Gold Cup and King George. Paul Nicholls has won six of the 12 renewals but doesn’t have a runner this year. None of the six declared jockeys have won a Betfair Chase.
Outlander represents Gordon Elliott and looks vulnerable on ratings but the trainer is a master so nothing would surprise you about his horses. Shantou Flyer and Traffic Fluide have a fair bit to find on ratings. Bristol De Mai is something of the young pretender but the horse has only won one Grade 1 race while Cue Card has won nine of them. Age and that tendency to make jumping errors counts against Cue Card but the horse’s class can count so Cue Card can win his 10th Grade 1 in the 2017 Betfair Chase at Haydock.