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Cue Card trainer Tizzard reveals Cheltenham Gold Cup intentions

Somerset-based trainer Colin Tizzard has clearly indicated that his top-class chaser Cue Card will give up his Ryanair crown for a crack at the big time at this year’s Cheltenham Festival.

The Venn Farm stable star sprung a shock in the Betfair Chase in November, confounding doubters of his staying ability by seeing off current Cheltenham Gold Cup market leaders Bobs Worth and Silviniaco Conti in stunning fashion.

Cue Card served up a treat at Haydock, out-jumping all of his rivals with some style and moved up the gears to comfortably finish four and a half lengths ahead of the David Pipe-trained Dynaste.

It was a different story in the King George at Kempton, as Paul Nicholls’ Silviniaco Conti reversed form from the previous month by heading Tizzard’s seven-year-old before the last fence and ran out the three and a half length victor.

However, father and son jockey/trainer combination Colin and Joe will be working overtime on their beloved gelding’s jumping and he stayed on well enough to be forgiven his single mistake over the second last.

Tizzard senior has entered him in both the Ryanair and the Gold Cup on Thursday and Friday of the Festival respectively, but stated in recent days that it’s 85 per cent likely the horse’s appointment at Cheltenham will be in the latter

Cue Card got as close to Nicky Henderson great Sprinter Sacre as any horse has in recent years when chasing the French-bred phenomenon home at Aintree’s Melling Chase last April, eventually finishing less than five lengths behind.

He goes brilliantly around Cheltenham, having won on his first run around Prestbury Park in the 2010 Champion Bumper and has only finished out of the top-four places once in six races at the course since, when Tizzard junior was unseated by his mount in a novice chase at 2011’s Open Meeting.

His chances of a successful return to Gloucestershire in the Ryanair event he won in 2013 are rated at 3/1 favourite odds, but after the latest update from Cue Card’s yard, followers will be steaming in to the best-price 8/1 with Coral about him for the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Having seen off First Lieutenant by nine lengths last year, Cue Card surely rates a better prospect than Mouse Morris’ charge at the same 8/1 odds for the showpiece, despite the Michael O’Leary-trained nine-year-old’s impressive run when chasing home Bobs Worth in the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown.

The Gold Cup picture in 2014 has become blurred by patchy recent form from the main fancies, but now that Cue Card’s stamina doubts have been put to bed, combined with his love of the Cheltenham track, he looks primed to get among the places at worst.

Punters will get an indication of how well the Tizzard yard is going ahead of the crucial spring months, with 40/1 Cheltenham Champion Chase longshot Oiseau de Nuit set to renew rivalries with Gary Moore’s Sire de Grugy in the Grade One Clarence House at Ascot.