Joe Tizzard believes Cue Card heads for the William Hill King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day in better shape than he was 12 months ago.
Cue Card was second to Silviniaco Conti in the Christmas showpiece when partnered by Tizzard after looking all over the winner.
Tizzard has since retired from race-riding and is assistant trainer to his father Colin.
“I rode him out the other morning and he’s in cracking form,” the retired jockeysaid. “We’re going there with no pressure either. It’s a hot race, every race he runs in is a hot race. The forecast looks good and he’s going to get nicer ground than at Haydock. He bounces off the better ground over the longer trip. Kempton ground will be lovely, I think.
“He’s in better form than he was going into the race last year. He blew hard after Haydock and he’s come on for the run. He gave me a lovely feel when I rode him out and I’m really pleased with him.”
Cue Card was fourth to Silviniaco Conti in the Betfair Chase at Haydock which he had won last November. Noel Fehily was in the saddle that day and he is expecting another big performance. “I was very impressed with him at Haydock in the Betfair,” the jockey said. “Paul Nicholls has been very happy with him since and he thinks he has him in the form on his life, so we are very positive going into the race and looking forward to it.”
Meanwhile, owner Matt Morgan believes the right decision was made to skip Ascot on Saturday with Sign Of A Victory and instead have a crack at the unbeaten Faugheen in the William Hill Christmas Hurdle at Kempton, when racing resumes after two blank days on Friday.
The Nicky Henderson-trained five-year-old laughed at the handicapper upon his return to action this season, winning a valuable Ascot prize on the bridle from stablemate and subsequent scorer Dawalan.
He had been kept back to run in The Ladbroke at the weekend but connections decided to skip the handicap and go straight for a Grade One once rain turned the ground soft. Put in as third favourite behind Faugheen and Fighting Fifth winner Irving, Morgan is well aware of the task his charge faces. He said: “We’re just hoping the rain holds off. It was the right decision not to run him in the Ladbroke.
“I spoke to Nicky on Saturday evening and Barry (Geraghty) had told him that the ground was dead and tacky, which wouldn’t have suited him at all.
“If the rain does hold off all we’ve got to worry about then is Faugheen! It’s great for the sport that the Champion Hurdle favourite is coming over, and very good for Kempton. Punters want to see these good horses running and I hope we’re adding a bit of interest.”
Faugheen takes an unblemished record to Kempton, but rider Ruby Walsh feels the Willie Mullins-trained gelding has got to improve if he is to be a serious contender for the Champion Hurdle.
“He won the Grade One novice over two miles at Punchestown last year. I don’t see dropping down in trip will be an issue,” the jockey said. “You’d think he’d a good bit straighter and improved for his run at Ascot, but he’ll have to be. Irving was very good in the Fighting Fifth. He has good course-and-distance form around Kempton and Faugheen will have to be a good bit more forward than he was at Ascot to beat Irving.
“Irving will be a tough nut to crack, but if we have aspirations of Faugheen being a Champion Hurdle horse then in order to beat The New One, Hurricane Fly and Jezki down the line he will have to account for Irving. I think his jumping will improve the more experience he gets. I’ll be hoping he’ll be a bit slicker again at Kempton. His schooling at home and his work have been good. We’re very much looking forward to Friday.”
And John Ferguson revealed he is leaning towards running exciting prospect Three Kingdoms in the williamhill.com Novices’ Chase at Kempton on Saturday, rather than take him to Leopardstown for the Racing Post Novice Chase a day earlier. “He’ll probably go to Kempton where the ground will be much better for him,” said the trainer.