The old stager will get the chance to prove there’s spring still in his step, following confirmation Cue Card will take his chance in the Ascot Chase on Saturday.
Cue Card is one of the most popular horses in training, but his powers have looked on the wane this season at the age of 12.
He fell on his seasonal bow in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby in October, before finding a peak-form Bristol De Mai too strong in the Betfair Chase at Haydock Park in November.
Trainer Colin Tizzard elected to sidestep a tilt at the King George VI Chase at Kempton Park on Boxing Day, reasoning that his charge was not firing on all cylinders. That was also at a time when many of the yard’s runners were performing below their best, but they appear to have turned a corner in the past 10 days.
Tizzard’s son and assistant Joe reports Cue Card to be as good as ever and feels a third win in the race is not out of the question.
“He has had a nice break and schooled beautifully on Wednesday morning,” Tizzard said, per At The Races. “He seems in the best form he has been all season. He really is in good nick.
“We haven’t written him off by any stretch of the imagination, so we are looking forward to running him. I don’t think there was anything wrong with the Haydock run. On different days different horses win those top-class races.
“Bristol De Mai was perhaps unbeatable on that day (at Haydock) and it is a bit different when you go elsewhere. I still think he has got another big day in him.
“It is not an easy race on Saturday compared to last year. It looks a decent race, but he is still a very good horse on his day.”
In his two previous wins in the Ascot Grade One, in 2013 and last year, Cue Card was sent off favourite. He’s unlikely to be the market leader on Saturday, 188BET have him chalked up at 7/1, with that honour set to be with the Nicky Henderson-trained Top Notch – a comfortable winner of the Peterborough Chase on his most recent outing – who is trading at 2/1.
Waiting Patiently, who is unbeaten over fences, could represent the North. He would be a popular winner for Ruth Jefferson, who has taken over the licence following the recent death of her father Malcolm.
Coney Island is being trained with the Gold Cup in mind and Irish handler Eddie Harty could use the Ascot race as his prep run – while Frodon, Speredek and Traffic Fluide make up the seven-strong party at the five-day stage.