Cue Card showed he was back to his brilliant best with a superb display as he regained his crown in the Betfair Chase at Haydock yesterday.
Colin Tizzard’s stable star has had well-documented troubles since being successful in this race two years ago and was well beaten by Silviniaco Conti 12 months ago.
However, he showed he was recapturing his old form when winning the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby three weeks ago.
Silviniaco Conti made a gallant bid to win the Betfair for a third time as he set a good gallop, but Cue Card (7-4) was never far away.
The writing was on the wall when Cue Card ranged alongside the 5-4 favourite before the four fences in the straight. Paddy Brennan let the nine-year-old jump his way to the front after the third last and Cue Card drew away to take the prize by seven lengths.
Brennan said: “That was unbelievable. When I rode Imperial Commander I never thought I’d have the chance to sit on another horse as good or even a Gold Cup horse. The way he’s done it out there today, he felt like a Gold Cup horse.
“It was great to get back on a good horse at Wetherby and today he was awesome. A big win on a big Saturday, I’d like to dedicate this win to everyone in France, in Paris. I was lucky enough to ride some winners in Auteuil and we are all thinking about them.”
Tizzard said: “He’s done it easier today (than two years ago). It was always going to happen, I thought.
“It’s lovely to have him back. We’ve taken them all on and he’s done it really well. We’ve had to deal with his problems and now he’s back to his very best. He’s not a tearaway anymore. You can ride him how you like now.
“There’s no reason to run away from Kempton. It’s the next stop, I’d say. If he’s in the form he’s in now, the Gold Cup is the ultimate race, so why not?”
Cue Card was cut to 5-1 from 16-1 with Paddy Power for the William Hill King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day.
Paul Nicholls, trainer of Silviniaco Conti, said: “Cue Card was very good and there are no excuses. He’s run a nice race and they can’t win every time. He jumped a little to the right and we might put the blinkers back on him next time as he races a bit lazily. I suppose we will go to Kempton next.”
Trainer David Pipe said of third home Dynaste and Ballynagour, who was last of the five: “Dynaste ran well and we’ll see how he comes out of the race before making any plans. The winner was very impressive. Ballynagour made a couple of mistakes and could not get into the race after that.”
At Ascot, Vautour made a victorious return to action as he landed the Stella Artois 1965 Chase, although he made relatively hard work of seeing off Ptit Zig. Sent off the 2-5 favourite for Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh, Vautour was enjoying a first start since powering home by 15 lengths in the JLT Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham back in March.
Walsh set out to make every yard in the two-mile-five-furlong contest and everything appeared to be going smoothly until Vautour made a bad mistake seven fences from home, crashing through the obstacle.
However, Walsh regained his composure and Vautour was soon back in his stride as Ptit Zig emerged as his only real challenger.
The Paul Nicholls-trained runner pushed the favourite all the way up the straight and after briefly looking as though he might push on, Vautour dug deep and found a little extra to win by a length and three-quarters.
RSA Chase winner O’Faolains Boy never really got going on his return from a lengthy spell on the sidelines and was pulled up passing the post first time.