Cue Card 'better than ever' for Kempton defence - Brennan
Cue Card's rider Paddy Brennan could not be happier with the horse ahead of a hugely-anticipated clash with stablemate Thistlecrack in the 32Red King George VI Chase on Monday.
A winner of the race last year, when he got up near the wire to beat the ill-fated Vautour, Cue Card could be vulnerable this year despite the small field, as the decision has been made to take him on with Gold Cup favourite Thistlecrack.
Brennan said: "I went down to Colin Tizzard's this morning and sat on him for the first time since winning the Betfair Chase last month. He felt great.
"In fact, he felt as good, if not better, than ever. I schooled him over fences, he jumped great and I couldn't be happier with him," Brennan told his 32red.com blog.
Ruby Walsh is perhaps more likely to be in Leopardstown but the rider - aboard for all of Kauto Star's five wins in the race - has nailed his colours to Thistlecrack. "It's a big step up for Thistlecrack," he wrote on his blog on Paddy Power, which goes 11/10 that the novice goes off favourite at Kempton.
"The likely tempo of the race and the quality of this King George field is his biggest test yet over fences but I think he'll prove up to it and if I had the choice I'd ride Thistlecrack.
"This is the smallest field I can remember for a King George in a long time - and it can play into Thistlecrack's hands. Last year's World Hurdle winner is looking to become the first novice to win this contest and with so few runners, it should make his life that little bit easier.
"He is relatively inexperienced with just three runs - but three wins - over fences. However, he'll get a clear sight at the Kempton fences against so few runners, rather than having eight or ten rivals to contend with at every obstacle."
Betway became the first bookmaker to make Thistlecrack outright favourite for the race yesterday. It makes Thistlecrack 5/4 from 11/8, the price to which it pushed out Cue Card.
Vroum Vroum Mag looks set to represent Willie Mullins in the 32Red.com Christmas Hurdle on Monday, a race the stable won with Faugheen in each of the last two years.
Faugheen was not among the entries and will run at Leopardstown if he appears over Christmas. Vroum Vroum Mag could clash with the likes of Yanworth, The New One and 2013 winner My Tent Or Yours.
Many Clouds will not achieve a first Grade One success in the Lexus at Leopardstown, trainer Oliver Sherwood ruling him out due to the possibility of testing terrain. It's likely there will be British representation in the race as the Jonjo O'Neill-trained More Of That and Taquin Du Seuil and the Rebecca Curtis-trained Irish Cavalier were among the 19 left in. Djakadam, Don Poli, Valseur Lido and Vroum Vroum Mag are all possibles.
The Crafty Butcher, part-owned by rugby stars Ian Madigan and Dominic Ryan, is ten in the ballot for the Paddy Power Steeplechase on Tuesday. His trainer Willie Mullins is responsible for six of the 13 remaining entries for the Paddy Power Future Champions Novice Hurdle.
The champion trainer landed the Grade One prize with Hurricane Fly in 2008 and doubled up with Long Dog 12 months ago. Saturnas and Penhill are among the sextet, though both were well-held in the Royal Bond.
Meanwhile, Gordon Elliott has confirmed that Roi Du Mee, which provided him with his first Grade One winner, has been retired.
Owned by Gigginstown, Roi Du Mee will spend the rest of his life alongside War Of Attrition and Rule The World at Michael O'Leary's farm in Mullingar. The horse ran 49 times, winning 16 and second on a further ten occasions.
Elliott would love to have a peak-form Roi Du Mee among his team as he bids to maintain his lead over Willie Mullins in the Irish trainers' title race. Ahead of the Christmas festivals, there is €461,475 between the pair, Elliott now only even-money to win it for the first time.