Tizzard’s Cue Card fastest at Cheltenham

Veteran rider Barry Cash enjoyed a second festival success, nine years after the first


No matter what the distance of a race, the fastest horse usually wins and Cue Card proved to be just that when landing yesterday’s Ryanair at Cheltenham.

Winner of the Champion Bumper here in 2010, it was only last week that trainer Colin Tizzard finally steered his pride and joy away from a Champion Chase clash with Sprinter Sacre towards the Ryanair.

First Lieutenant, owned by the big-race sponsor Michael O’Leary, was rerouted in the other direction from the Gold Cup and over the intermediate distance it was the faster horse that emerged best.

“I always thought he was having to go a shade too quick,” O’Leary conceded afterwards. “He was entitled to go there but Cue Card was a two-miler going up in trip and we’re a three-miler coming back.”

Not that the Tizzard camp weren’t worried they’d maybe got it wrong: As his son Joe steered Cue Card back to the winners enclosure, Tizzard admitted to nerves on the run-in to the race, especially since Cue Card hasn’t been without his critics.

Put to bed
However, any suspicion he might be a “bridle” horse, libel to fall apart when his jumping is put under pressure, was firmly put to bed yesterday.

“He jumped fast and fluent and you have seen him at his best today,” said Tizzard snr, while his son had the air of a man vindicated.

“He’s had his detractors, but he’s top class. He’s been to four festivals and never failed to reach the enclosure,” Joe Tizzard said. “We did think about running in the Queen Mum but having seen Sprinter Sacre win, this was the right decision. I’d rather win this than be second to him.”

Headgear is usually more of a Royal Ascot pre-occupation than at Cheltenham but there could be more attention paid to it from now on at the festival following Benefficient’s 20 to 1 success in the Jewson Novices Chase.

Rarely if ever seen on racecourses until recently, hoods have become increasingly fashionable on the flat and have been employed by illustrious names such as Henry Cecil and John Oxx.

Their main attribute is that they cover a horse’s ears, blocking out noise that might upset them, and Tony Martin decided they would be the perfect final piece in the Benefficient jigsaw.

The other was jockey Bryan Cooper who gave the Irish horse an inspired ride from the front, and was coolness itself when the favourite Dynaste swept past him before the turn in.

“I knew he had a little bit left, spotted a gap on the inner and went for it,” Cooper reported.

“I knew if I got a good jump at the last I’d be right there and he came up like a man. This horse has done so much for me. He gave me a first Grade One and now my first Cheltenham win. He’s a bit of a worrier and the hood made him settle a bit and give me a little bit more control,” he added. One slight blip for Cooper was a two-day ban for his use of the whip.

Veteran rider Barry Cash enjoyed a second festival success, nine years after the first, when Big Shu won the Glenfarclas Cross-Country Chase. A first festival runner for trainer Peter Maher, Big Shu may not have the class of Cash’s old hero Brave Inca, on who he won the 2004 Supreme, but he had four lengths in hand of Shakervilz at the end of the marathon journey. Postponed from Tuesday, the cross-country event was the last race run yesterday but started over half an hour later than scheduled due to the medical situation with jockey John Thomas McNamara after his fall in the Kim Muir.

Stewards in action
The stewards were also in action after the Pertemps won by the 25 to 1 outsider Holywell. Gold Cup winning rider Paddy Brennan got nine days for his use of the whip on Captain Sunshine and misses the Grand National meeting. Robbie Power received a couple of days on the third, Jetson.

Shutthefrontdoor appeared to be Jonjo O’Neill’s main hope but he had no answer to his stable companion Holywell who thrived in headgear of his own, in this case blinkers.

“They obviously helped because they travelled and jumped well throughout,” said O’Neill, saddling his 22nd festival winner. “Richie (McLernon) is a great horseman and he said this horse might need headgear. He was right.”

The difficulty of sorting out Cheltenham’s handicaps was emphasised even more in the Byrne Group Plate when Carrickboy sprang a 50 to 1 shock.