Sport Cheltenham

Sunday 22 April 2018

Betting ring: Cue Card looks the one to buck Gold Cup trends

Jezki ridden by jockey Robbie Power in action during yesterday’s Stayers’ Hurdle. Photo: PA
Jezki ridden by jockey Robbie Power in action during yesterday’s Stayers’ Hurdle. Photo: PA

Wayne Bailey

The Irish are no strangers to bailouts and debt these days, but the first time we received a loan from the World Bank was in 1969.

The relatively prosperous '60s were coming to an end and the troubles in the north were about to kick off. Jack Lynch was Taoiseach, Dev was President, Leeds were the top team in England and Ned Miller was flying high in the charts with 'From a Jack to a King'.

It's a long time ago now and so much has changed in Ireland and Britain - although one thing has remained constant in the years since, and that is the fact that no horse older than ten has won the Gold Cup at Cheltenham.

Trained by D-Day veteran Ryan Price, who was one of the first to buy young French jumps horses, What A Myth won the Gold Cup in 1969 aged 12 but it's such a tough race and older horses often struggle.

That's a big negative for 11-year-old Cue Card in this year's renewal (3.10) although when you read those type of statistics, you have to think about them a little more deeply.

While it's true that eight- and nine-year-olds have a great record in the race recently, there were 141 Gold Cup runners at those ages since 1997 so obviously they are well represented. To put it in context, there were 22 11-year-old runners, nine 12-year-olds and two 13-year-olds during the same period.

Of those horses aged 11 like Cue Card, just four were actually fancied (priced under 10/1) with Kauto Star the shortest one beaten in 2011 when third at 5/1.

Barton Bank was second in 1997 at 33/1, and Denman hit even-money in-running before finishing second at 8/1 in 2011 so it's not impossible for an older horse to do well - although I do concede that Cue Card will have to run the race of his life if he's to make a little bit of history today.

Fairytale endings are rare in this game and I've tossed this over in my mind for months but the form is in the book and he seems to be as good as ever despite his age, so I've decided to go with Colin Tizzard's veteran, which was vying for favouritism yesterday with stablemate Native River and Willie Mullins' Djakadam.

The latter has been a little unreliable since his second place in this last year, losing three of his four races, and I think Mullins will have to wait for that elusive Gold Cup win.

Native River is definitely the big danger and although rated a couple of pounds below Cue Card, he has the potential to improve quite a bit - unlike the selection.

Still, though, there was no shame in coming second to Thistlecrack in the King George and he was back to his best in the Betfair Chases at Haydock and Ascot, so it's not unreasonable to assume he's got one more big race left in him.


Enda Bolger's On The Fringe won the Foxhunter Challenge Cup (4.10) in 2015 and 2016 and comes here in good order. But there's plenty in with chances here so purely based on prices, he's a lay at 7/4.

STAT ATTACK: Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle

Willie Mullins has sent a total of 25 horses to this race but he's yet to have a winner - just four have been placed.

Quite a few of those were strong in the betting, with Black Hercules (2015) going off at 5/2, Briar Hill at 2/1 (2014) and Boston Bob at 6/5 (2012).

The latter was his best performer so far in second place, but Mullins is throwing a few darts at the board again with C'est Jersey, Penhill, Turcagua and the third-favourite in the betting yesterday around 6/1 Augusta Kate.

One of the newer races added in 2005, it was reasonably punter friendly at first but the last three winners have been priced in double figures.

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