Classy Cue Card poised for glory again
Colin Tizzard’s star in the form of his life and looks too strong for the home team
Paddy Brennan riding Cue Card clear of the last to win The Betfred Bowl Steeple Chase at Aintree earlier this month. Photograph : Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images
Originally billed as the festival’s potentially epic centrepiece, Punchestown’s Day Two feature now appears an ideal opportunity for Britain’s top chaser, Cue Card, to put the seal on a near-perfect season.
The dramatic Cheltenham Gold Cup fall at the third last fence has left a frustrating sense of ‘what if’ around an otherwise pristine campaign which sees Cue Card now attempt a fourth Grade One win of the season in the €200,000 Bibby Financial Gold Cup.
There is always a risk that a relatively busy campaign can catch up with a horse at this time of year but Cue Card bounced out of that Cheltenham mishap notably well to put both Djakadam and Don Poli firmly in their place at Aintree.
Paddy Brennan even reported afterwards that what appeared a silky-smooth victory didn’t even represent Cue Card at his absolute best.
It was that sort of standard which had made the prospect of a clash with the Gold Cup winner Don Cossack and Vautour so tantalising. Don Cossack’s injury and Vautour’s festival diversion to two miles has scotched that. However a peak-form Cue Card still represents a top quality headline act
It is that which trumps Cue Card’s relatively ordinary fourth in this race last year behind Don Cossack, where both Djakadam and Road To Riches finished ahead of him.
Djakadam should be more effective at this track than he was at Liverpool while Road To Riches will relish better going, as will Carlingford Lough. But a Cue Card looks too big an obstacle to overcome.
Adding the €100,000 Attheraces Champion Flat Race to the Cheltenham bumper is a double achieved by Champagne Fever (2012) and Cousin Vinny (2008) in the past but Moon Racer is attempting his own unique version.
David Pipe’s star won the Cheltenham bumper 413 days ago and hasn’t been seen in action since, a November setback ruling out a jumping campaign with Pipe instead targeting a race he won in 2013 with The Liquidator.
“Obviously it’s a big ask to win a Grade One on foreign soil after an absence although I’m very hopeful and wouldn’t swap him for anything else in the field,” Pipe said.
Part of the confidence could come from a suspicion that last year’s Cheltenham bumper could have been a better renewal than last month’s when Ballyandy beat off the Willie Mullins trio, Battleford and Bacardys and Castelo Sforza.
They are part of a five-strong Mullins team in total while the unbeaten Aspen Colorado will attract attention. However Moon Racer could do his bit towards a very good Grade One day for the English raiders.
Last year’s Champion Bumper winner Bellshill is one of four Mullins hopefuls in the Irish Daily Mirror Novice Hurdle and he should prove hard to beat having proved his stamina for three miles at Aintree.
Noel Fehily takes over from Jonathan Burke (injured) on the regally bred Supasundae for the conditions hurdle and a more relaxed performance this time around should make him hard to beat.