Twelve months ago Cue Card turned up at Haydock with many doubting his stamina would hold out for the 3m1f test. Boy, did he prove them wrong.
Joe Tizzard barely had to get serious on the Ryanair Chase winner as he ran out a 4 1/2l winner of 2013’s Betfair Chase.
And now he is back for more, and looks a solid bet to double up at the Merseyside track.
The Jean Bishop-owned eight-year-old made a satisfactory return under a big weight at Exeter in the Haldon Gold Cup, with the 2m1f trip looking far too short these days.
As he looks to become the first dual winner of the first Grade 1 of the season since Kauto Star, he could potentially face eight rivals.
Truth be told, it looks a straight rematch of last year’s principles.
The Giant Bolster (33/1) ran no sort of race at Wetherby, and looks to save his best for the spring, having won between the months of October and December just twice in a five-year career.
Harry Topper (14/1) could be an each-way interest to some. He goes well fresh, and will love the ground, but one has to question whether his jumping is good enough to land a race of this calibre.
The Charlie Hall winner Menorah (7/1) has been well beaten by both Cue Card and Silviniaco Conti in the past, and it is hard to take the form of that win as gospel.
Nevertheless, this particular writer will be swerving Taquin De Seuil (5/1) after he failed to see off his elder opponent in that race, despite enjoying match fitness and a healthy weight advantage.
So we are left with three, the same three that filled the top-spots in this 12 months ago.
Dynaste (10/3) is a classy horse and seems to appreciate cut in the ground but whether he warrants being approximately the same price as the other two principles remains to be seen.
He has been beaten all three times over distances further than 3m since stepping out of novice company, so will need to improve on his first appearance of the campaign.
Silviniaco Conti (3/1) was very disappointing at Wetherby. Even allowing for the fact that his trainer said he would come on for the run, the eight-year-old stopped extremely quickly on his season opener.
The King George winner will likely leave that run behind, and with his record on ‘Soft’ reading 13F111, it’s hard to dissuade anyone from siding with Paul Nicholls’ Gold Cup fourth.
However, with Colin Tizzard describing how CUE CARD (10/3) is “the one to beat”, banking on a back-to-back winner looks the best bet for the race.
His run at Exeter came after 11 months off, and pitched him against some very progressive two-milers, carrying bucketload of weight, and was better than the bare result.
Victory here last year came despite a couple of slower jumps than his rivals, and if he can serve up a repeat performance, there is no reason to doubt the same result could be on the cards.
All odds and markets correct as of the date of publishing