Cue Card's Gold Cup odds are slashed after fine Ascot romp
History can often repeat itself and connections of Cue Card will be hoping that is the case at next month's Cheltenham Festival following his impressive success in the Betfair Ascot Chase.
After winning the Grade One prize in 2013, the Colin Tizzard-trained gelding went on to strike in the Ryanair Chase at Prestbury Park, and while that race is not on the agenda this term, a second tilt at the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup most certainly is.
Having found only stablemate Thistlecrack too strong in the King George VI Chase at Kempton on St Stephen's Day, the 11-year-old was sent off the 4/9 favourite to register his ninth top-level success.
Placed just behind the pace-setting Royal Regatta, the market leader jumped boldly throughout before producing a magnificent leap at the fourth-last to join forces with the long-time leader.
Although the Philip Hobbs-trained runner attempted to go with Paddy Brennan's mount, he was ultimately a spent force, with Cue Card forging on into a clear advantage on the run to the final fence.
Meeting the last on a good stride, the Jean Bishop-owned winner continued to draw clear before finishing an eased-down 15-length winner from Shantou Flyer, who pipped the brave Royal Regatta for second.
Cue Card was cut to 6/1 for the Gold Cup by both William Hill and Paddy Power, who had previously been 7/1 and 8/1 respectively.
Tizzard - who is 10/1 with Hills to saddle the first three home in the Cheltenham showpiece - said: "It's nice to see his well-being, really. After the last race he was a bit wrong and had a big, fat leg and we said he wasn't right, but he has been perfect all the way through.
"He is 11 and you wonder 'how many times can he keep doing this?' but he is back again. Today he jumped beautifully and he destroyed them. It was everything you want to see and more.
"Paddy Brennan was instrumental, he said it would not hurt to go back to two miles five, as they go a fast pace and it will be Cheltenham Festival pace and instead of having three months off you can take this in, then back off him a bit.
"In the ring he looked as well as ever and on form he needed to do that. He has been a brilliant horse for a long time. I spoke to Jean and it is her ambition to win the Gold Cup."
He added: "The plan is to run Cue Card, Thistlecrack and Native River in the Gold Cup, and possibly Theatre Guide as well."
Having watched her star horse take a tumble in the Gold Cup 12 months ago when still full of running and in search of a £1million bonus, Bishop is now hoping he can put the record straight in just under four weeks' time.
She said: "I'd hoped he would do this and that is Cue Card for you. I'm nervous every day I go racing. I get nervous going to Plumpton!
"At Aintree last year they said that was his best performance, but he seems to be getting better and better. He doesn't know he is 11 and you wouldn't know he is.
"His jumping was very good and I always let Paddy Brennan ride the race how he wants to and he could not have done it better.
"I hope he can win the Gold Cup and it would mean everything - it would be like winning the FA Cup. When you have horses like this, this is what you dream of."
Just as glowing as Milborne Port handler Tizzard was Gold Cup-winning rider Brennan.
The Galway man said: "It was a great performance. The ground is really dead. It was hard to know what pace we were going.
"When I looked round after the last I thought we were only two or three lengths clear - that sums up what a great horse he is. I knew this trip was on the sharp side, but he was brilliant.
"He's been massive for my career - he's changed my life over the last couple of years."
Sunday Indo Sport