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Cue Card could soar in Ryanair
A QUIET day at the Cheltenham Festival for county runners and their connections yesterday could prove to be the calm before the storm as we look forward to a clutch of Dorset entrants with big chances today.
First mention goes deservedly to Colin Tizzard’s star turn Cue Card, who looks to add the Ryanair Chase (2.40pm) to his Champion Bumper victory of 2010 and his placed effort in last year’s Arkle.
As his form suggests, Cue Card relishes visits to Prestbury Park and must have a favourite’s chance.
Jockey Joe Tizzard told the Echo: “He got the (2.5f+) trip well at Ascot last time out so he clearly stays, he jumps well, and loves the course”.
Cue Card has always been an exuberant animal so a key part of Joe’s mission will be to keep him settled through his fences Tizzard added: “He took one at Ascot a little bit steep but never looked like falling, if anything it sharpened him.”
Tizzard senior kept the racing world guessing until last week before confirming his leading light would be targeted at the championship race for middle-distance chasers rather than the Champion Chase which Sprinter Sacre dominated yesterday.
An ultra-competitive Byrne Group Plate (4pm) will see Colin Tizzard’s fast-improving Theatre Guide (20-1) lock horns with Hunt Ball (13-2) over two miles and five furlongs.
The latter, famously owned by Sturminster Newton dairy farmer Anthony Knott, should benefit from better ground as Knott told the Echo.
He said: “He is 40-50lbs wrong on soft ground so we’d want at least good to soft although we could have done with better.
“Keiran (Burke, the trainer) feels he has got the horse better than last year, but for nerves he’s even worse than me, with these expectations, he’s not sleeping at night.”
When asked if there was anyone he feared in the race, Knott commented that his only minor concern is that his runner’s top-weight (11-12) may leave him somewhat vulnerable to younger improvers. Another bold front-running display is expected.
He said: “He is a group horse in a handicap so he’ll get a very prominent ride, they will have to come and beat us.”
The old chestnut about dogs and their owners may well apply to horses too as both Knott and Hunt ball are up for the fight.
I have given up asking Anthony if he has backed Hunt Ball, a fairer question might be “how much”?
* Regal Encore, sent out by Beaminster’s Anthony Honeyball, finished a creditable second in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper yesterday.
He travelled like the winner for much of the way under the guidance of Tony McCoy before Briar Hill crossed the line first