Rewind 12 months and heading into the home straight of the King George VI Chase at Kempton, Cue Card looked the most likely winner, travelling in the slip stream of long-time leader and eventual winner Silviniaco Conti.
However, when asked to challenge by jockey Daryl Jacob, the horse found nothing, eventually crawling home in fifth and beaten by 13 lengths.
This was Cue Card’s third attempt at King George glory and the third time that he faltered up the Kempton run in having looked a likely winner for a long way.
Undeterred, trainer Colin Tizzard is back for a fourth crack at the Boxing Day showcase in 2015, with Cue Card among those vying for favouritism at 3/1. But given his failings previously, what reason is there to think he can make it fourth time lucky? In fact there are two:
The first is a wind operation or more precisely surgery on his epiglottis, which is a flap of cartilage behind the tongue that can cover the windpipe and make breathing difficult.
Tizzard likened the problem to “having a golf ball stuck in the throat”.
Since the surgery in February, Cue Card has run twice this season and showed no signs of slowing down late on in either the Charlie Hall Chase or Betfair Chase, winning both fairly routinely.
Granted, the overall calibre of opposition at Kempton is expected to be higher, but there is no obvious reason why the 10-year-old should flag up the home straight again.
The second reason is the change of scenery that occurred for the Tizzard yard in recent months.
After 20 years training at the Venn Farm location in Dorset, he moved his yard the short distance to Spurriles Farm.
Among the benefits of the new barns are UV lighting that keep bugs away and reduces the risk of viruses, extra air vents, skylights that help more sun peak through and a less stressful walk to the gallops which avoids the need to cross a busy A-road.
Tizzard’s chasers have won 15 per cent of their races this season, which is an improvement on each of the past two campaigns and Cue Card has every capability of improving this ratio further in the King George.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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