Cue Card inspired dreams of possible glory in the William Hill King George VI Chase on Boxing Day as he made every yard of the running for a famous success in the Betfair Chase at Haydock on Saturday afternoon.
Many had doubted the stamina of Colin Tizzard’s charge but he was cut to 5-2 favourite from 6-1 with the sponsors for the Kempton showpiece after proving his staying prowess with an emphatic triumph.
Tizzard’s jockey son Joe was able to dictate his own pace at the head of affairs on the 9-1 shot and had enough in the tank to hold off Dynaste by four and a half lengths.
While Kempton is next on the agenda, Tizzard fought shy of any talk of challenging for Cheltenham Gold Cup honours at this stage.
“There’s been a lot of pressure the last week or so. It’s almost brought a tear to my eye. Joe was real coy until about three out, he just sat there and never moved,” said the Dorset trainer.
“There’s plenty of water to go under the bridge before March. I assume he’ll go to the King George next and then I’m sure he’ll end up at Cheltenham in one of the races.
“It’s everybody’s dream to have a horse good enough to run in the Gold Cup and I’m sure that, unless we get beat by stayers next time, it will be on his compass.”
Runner-up Dynaste is also set to take his chance in the King George, while trainer Nicky Henderson admitted his concerns about the track being too sharp for Bobs Worth proved correct as last year’s Gold Cup hero finished only sixth. He could now take in the Lexus at Leopardstown.
Gevrey Chambertin emulated his Pipe-trained brother Grands Crus by winning the Betfair Cash Out “Fixed Brush” Handicap Hurdle.
And Al Ferof could also join the Boxing Day party after dismissing his sole rival French Opera in the Amlin 1965 Chase at Ascot.
Owner John Hales said: “The horse did everything we wanted as a prep for the King George.”
Annie Power’s ultimate target remains undecided, but the reputation of the Willie Mullins-trained mare was enhanced after her gritty five-length defeat of Zarkandar, who was giving her 11lb in the Coral Hurdle.
Owner Rich Ricci said: “Anybody who knows Willie knows he always has options.
“There’s the Christmas Hurdle, but do you really want to bump into My Tent Or Yours?, and there’s the Christmas (Festival) Hurdle in Ireland and she’d have to face Hurricane Fly.”
Mullins was in Tokyo as Simenon finished unplaced in the Japan Cup behind the Ryan Moore-ridden Gentildonna but it was more of the same for his team yesterday at Navan.
Unbeaten chestnut Moyle Park toyed with his rivals in the INH Stallion Owners EBF Maiden Hurdle, while Ballycasey needed to make up a bit of ground in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Beginners Chase before slipping clear on the run-in.
Mullins’ son, Patrick, said: “He’ll go for a novice race at Christmas and I’ll try to twist dad’s arm and get him to run him in the four-mile race (at the Cheltenham Festival).”
Cootamundra finally made amends for a career full of frustration when scoring for the first time ever over fences at 25-1 in the Ladbrokes Troytown Handicap Chase for Robbie Moran and John Berry.
Noel Meade’s Apache Stronghold took apart a field of previous winners in the Grade Two “Monksfield” Novice Hurdle and may return for next month’s Grade One Navan Novice Hurdle.