Trainer Colin Tizzard has gone with the script and ruled out his stable star Cue Card from a potential assault on the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham.
However, question marks remain regarding the eight-year-old’s final destination this spring with a possible Ryanair Chase defence or Gold Cup tilt the options available.
Following doubts surrounding Sprinter Sacre’s fitness after reported heart problems, Cue Card had been as short as 5/2 to successfully take the Nicky Henderson-trained superstar’s 2m crown.
But instead the focus will be on whether the dual-festival winner can either successfully justify his current 2/1 favouritism for the Ryanair or instead land jump racing’s most prestigious prize in the Gold Cup.
A 7/1 shot to score in the latter, there are plenty of doubters who’ll believe that taking on the stiff 3m2f test would be a waste of time.
Having blown out in the closing stages of the 3m King George VI chase to lose to potential Gold Cup rival Silviniaco Conti, there could be some merit to that theory.
Landing the Betfair Chase over a similar distance at Haydock was believed to be a watershed moment that confirmed Cue Card’s true staying power.
But that performance on Boxing Day at Kempton has only served to re-affirm the belief that Joe Tizzard’s mount is better suited to shorter races, with the 2m5f Ryanair arguably his ideal trip.
In a similar vein, Lexus Chase winner and defending Gold Cup hero Bobs Worth, alongside the aforementioned Silviniaco Conti, rightly deserve their places at the top of the market at odds of 2/1 and 3/1 respectively.
Their stamina is not in question although one potential negative surrounding the recent King George victor is the fact that ten of the last 13 Gold Cup winners had either won or finished second in a festival race before, a feat not achieved by Paul Nicholls’ eight-year-old.
There will be plenty of admirers should Tizzard and connections decide they wish to continue campaigning Cue Card at the current distance and shun an arguably easier Ryanair assignment.
However, whether he can come back and successfully re-oppose some of his respected rivals will be the subject of much debate between now and the upcoming renewal.
All odds and markets accurate as of publication’s time and date
Fancy a flutter? Sign up today to claim up to £50 in free bets.