Cue Card ‘in the form of his life’ ahead of Punchestown Gold Cup
Douvan one of six runners declared for Thursday’s Ryanair Novice Chase
Colin Tizzard has said Cue Card is ‘in the form of his life’ ahead of his Punchestown assault. Photograph: Getty
Cue Card bids to sign off a remarkable season on a high in the Bibby Financial Services Punchestown Gold Cup on Wednesday.
But for a fall at the third-last in the Cheltenham Gold Cup when holding every chance, Colin Tizzard’s star has had a phenomenal campaign.
He has won all his other four races — the Charlie Hall, the Betfair Chase, the King George VI Chase and the Betfred Bowl — and it is little wonder Tizzard does not have any qualms about taking him to Ireland.
The Dorset handler said: “He is showing all his enthusiasm and he looks fantastic.
“He has not had a hard second half of the season since the King George.
“He fell in the Gold Cup before the race got going in earnest, then he won quite easily at Aintree.
“He is still a fresh horse and is in the form of his life and he can’t not go as he deserves to.
“He is probably better this year than ever before, and that’s the most outstanding thing for me.
“He has come back as a 10-year-old as good as he has even been, if not better.”
Though Gold Cup Cup hero Don Cossack has been ruled out through injury, Cue Card will not have things all of his own way.
The Willie Mullins-trained pair of Djakadam and Don Poli, who were second and third respectively at Cheltenham, take on the admirable 10-year-old.
Barry Geraghty felt Carlingford Lough ran a good race to finish fourth in the Gold Cup after being outpaced at a crucial stage of the contest.
John Kiely’s charge had previously won the Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown for a second season on the bounce.
Geraghty told At The Races: “He ran on well in the Gold Cup.
“He didn’t have the pace through the middle part of the race, but kept on nicely.
“He won well at Leopardstown but has a preference for better ground, ideally.”
Smashing, Road To Riches and Foxrock complete the line-up.
Douvan is one of six declared runners for the Ryanair Novice Chase at Punchestown on Thursday.
The brilliant six-year-old will be sent off a short-priced favourite as he attempts to preserve his unbeaten record for Willie Mullins.
Old foe Sizing John renews rivalry for the Henry de Bromhead team, while Baltimore Rock makes the journey across the Irish Sea for Gloucestershire handler Neil Mulholland.
The Game Changer, runner-up to Douvan at Aintree, represents Gordon Elliott, with Ttebbob (Jessica Harrington) and huge outsider Mr Picotee (Vincent Halley) also in the game.
Meanwhile a field of 10 will look to take advantage of Thistlecrack’s absence in the Ladbrokes Champion Stayers Hurdle at Punchestown on Thursday.
The Mouse Morris-trained Alpha Des Obeaux, a clear second in the World Hurdle at Cheltenham, is one of three runners who, along with Dedigout (Tony Martin) and Lieutenant Colonel (Sandra Hughes), will carry the Gigginstown House Stud silks.
Willie Mullins has two strong contenders in Shaneshill, runner-up to Thistlecrack at Aintree, and the popular veteran Thousand Stars.
However, one horse conspicuous by her absence is Vroum Vroum Mag, who after being a late absentee from Sandown at the weekend instead looks set to run in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares Champion Hurdle on Saturday.
Diamond King landed the ultra-competitive Coral Cup at Cheltenham and has been declared by Gordon Elliott, with Davy Russell set to maintain the partnership.
The Philip Hobbs-trained If In Doubt is joined by Warren Greatrex’s One Track Mind in representing Britain.
Two mares, Jennies Jewel and Legacy Gold, complete the field.