A sight to gladden the hearts of Jump-racing fans came at Cheltenham this afternoon (12th November) when four-year-old Cue Card retained his unbeaten record in exciting fashion.
Owned by East Sussex-based Jean and Bob Bishop, Cue Card is based with the Tizzard family in Dorset, where he is trained by Colin and ridden by son Joe (pictured).
After winning the Grade Two Cheltenham Collection Sharp Novices’ Hurdle by eight lengths, Joe Tizzard said: “He is a machine. Today is the first time that they have gone a real gallop and he has switched off lovely. He didn’t really take the bridle up until jumping the second last and then he came hard on it.
“He made one mistake, but it’s only his second run over hurdles and he has never been that quick before in a hurdle race.
“He’s quick, he’s a star. I think for now he’s a two-miler – good two-milers need
to stay, and he does that, but for now I think we should remain at this trip.”
Colin Tizzard described Cue Card as “a serious machine” and added: “That’s everything we hoped for. It was a very different race from his previous one [at Aintree last month when he fought Joe for most of the trip]. They went off fast today and he didn’t pull – a fast-run two miles seems ideal and he jumps well and stays up this hill.
“I had concerns on the last bend, because Joe started to move on him for the first time ever. He didn’t go past Dunraven Storm that easily, but in the end he won by eight lengths. Joe asked him and he found more, so he’s starting to settle.
“The only negative we could take from Aintree was that he pulled too hard, but we fitted a dexter bit today to make it a bit easier. The pace was the biggest factor, however.
“He’s only four and we’ve got to look after him, so I would think one more run around Christmas, probably back here because it’s not too far to drive and they do a nice meal! We need to keep something back for the spring.
“I think that he had a hard enough race today and my responsibility is not to overdo this chap. He’s a four-year-old and we need him for the spring races. I don’t see why we won’t give him one more run before Christmas and then he will have six or so weeks not racing in the cold of the winter and come back for The Festival – he will remain at two miles and so there are two races he can go for.
“He has always been a good jumper and the Champion Bumper form is absolutely rock solid – even the horse that finished 20th has won in an ordinary race. Everything has won and he beat them hollow. It’s not me pretending that he is a good horse, he is a serious machine.
“I’ll never have another one this good – he’s special. He can jump, he can stay and he settles – everything about him is brilliant. “
Asked if the Stan James Champion Hurdle could be Cue Card’s Cheltenham Festival target (he is a top-priced 3/1 for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, and as short as 7/4 with Paddy Power for that race), Tizzard said: “Arkle was only a young horse when he won the Gold Cup, so it wouldn’t be the stupidest thing in the world. I’m not saying he’s Arkle.”
Bob Bishop said he and his wife had turned down big-money offers for Cue Card, but he emphasised: “He’s not for sale. It’s been an exciting summer and there’s been a lot of interest in him, but if I said he was for sale I’d have a divorce on my hands. This is the best horse we’ve owned in 26 years and we’ve owned a lot, but this is special. We were always apprehensive but we were confident and that was a great thrill.”
Trainer Philip Hobbs was pleased with the performance of runner-up Dunraven Storm, who was beaten eight lengths by the facile winner Cue Card in the Grade Two Cheltenham Collection Sharp Novices’ Hurdle but finished 10 lengths clear of the third, Ballyadam Brook.
The Minehead handler commented: “When he came back in, Richard (Johnson, jockey) said it felt like Cue Card had only joined the race at the second last! The winner must be an exceptional horse as some of the others behind us are pretty good too.
“Our horse has run well and I’m very happy with him. He is a lovely horse and will jump fences next year.
“We could meet the winner back at The Festival in March, but we will try and avoid him before that.”