Tizzard hoping for Festival dream double with Cue Card and Thistlecrack
David Metcalf | February 26, 2016
Milborne Port handler Colin Tizzard holds considerable claims of a 2016 Cheltenham Festival double, in World Hurdle favourite Thistlecrack and Cheltenham Gold Cup contender Cue Card.
Cue Card thriving ahead of Gold Cup bid
Trainer Tizzard reports “horse of a lifetime” Cue Card to be in terrific shape in his bid to land a £1m bonus in next month’s Cheltenham Gold Cup.
The 10-year-old has looked better than ever in winning all three of his starts this season since undergoing a breathing operation, including the Betfair Chase at Haydock and King Goerge VI Chase at Kempton.
Those two races are the first legs of The Jockey Club backed “Triple Crown” and Cue Card (11/2 chance for the Gold Cup with Coral) can secure the massive bonus if successful in chasing’s blue ribbon contest on Friday, March 18th..
“No doubts about his stamina”
Speaking at a media day as his East Hill Venn Farm just outside Milborne Port on the Dorset/Somerset border, Tizzard said: “Cue Card’s three wins this season have put paid to all the doubts about his stamina. For the last two years, we have not got to Cheltenham with him.
“Last year, about now – three weeks before Cheltenham, he could not get up the gallop. One day he was fine, the next day he wasn’t. He had a trapped epiglottis – it was like having a golf ball trapped in his throat.
“He could only just breathe – he couldn’t even trot up the gallop. Whether it was affecting him to a lesser degree two or three years beforehand, we don’t know. He never made a noise.
“In desperation last season, we put a tongue-tie on him but that did not make any difference. After his operation he came back in this season, looking a million dollars, and from the first time we ran him, he has just been very good.”
“Good all season and is still brilliant now”
“He has been good all season and he is still brilliant now – he looks like a staying chaser. It took all of Kempton’s three miles for him to get there (when winning the Grade 1 King George VI Chase on Boxing Day) – that is what Paddy Brennan said.
“People say will he stay at Cheltenham but it took three miles to get past Vautor and if it had been another half-mile that day, I think we would have won it by two or three lengths, if not more. He has never really showed his very best around Kempton.
“It was outstanding when he won the Champion Bumper (at The Festival in 2010) as a four-year-old. I had an argument with Joe (son) – I said you have got to hold him up and he said I am not doing that.
“I said he had to. We held the horse up for half the race and then Joe could not hold him after that. Cue Card ran away with the Champion Bumper. He ran away with the Ryanair (Chase in 2013).”
“Horse of a lifetime doesn’t owe us anything”
“He doesn’t owe us anything. He is in the peak of his form – beautiful at the moment. He has had a busy week and is going to Kempton on Saturday to work, he will have a busy week next week and then he will go back to normal training.
“Let’s hope we can get him to Cheltenham. He is absolutely brilliant at the moment and is the horse of a lifetime.
“He is 10 years old and has been doing training and racing for six years. That for me is the biggest pleasure, he still loves doing it every day. Hamir (Singh) rides him all the time – Hamir rides him because we trust Hamir to ride him the same every day.
“Cue Card used to be very flamboyant – he would tear off and not quite get home around Sprinter Sacre. But he is a different horse now – completely relaxed and he gets the trip.”
Bonus will “pay off mortgage”
“If I could win the Gold Cup, it would be the pinnacle of training – it would last forever. The money, including the £1m bonus, is fantastic and a lovely idea for the stable staff, the owners and everybody else. Money goes, doesn’t it – I can pay off part of my mortgage and it will be gone.
“I think we have got a better chance of winning the Gold Cup than we did approaching the King George. He likes Cheltenham and is brilliant round there. He can come down the hill, have a breather and go again.
“The Gold Cup is the best race – it may not be the biggest, the Grand National is, but for me it is the best.”
Thistlecrack on course to rule the World Hurdle
Tizzard’s other main hope at the Festival is Thistlecrack, the 10/11 red-hot favourite with Coral for the Grade 1 World Hurdle on St Patrick’s Thursday, March 17th.
“When he was a young horse we could not work Thistlecrack very well as he would always be a bit stiff behind,” Tizzard continued.
“But now he is at his peak – he has been absolutely brilliant for the last five runs and he could easily have won at Punchestown when he got stopped and made up eight lengths from the last.
“At the moment, when he races, there doesn’t appear to be a bottom to him. He just powers away at the end.
“He looks better than anything else over three miles. I keep on thinking someone is going to bring back a very good chaser who will be really rampant on the day but they would need to be.”
For more Cheltenham Festival content, both in the build-up and during the Prestbury Park showpiece, check out Coral’s dedicated section.