'Patiently' can pass his Ascot Grade One test
Cue Card will attempt to bounce back from two second places and two falls in his last four outings in the Betfair Ascot Chase today (3.35), a race he won last year priced 4/9.
That was the last time Colin Tizzard's popular gelding tasted success - and although we all love those sporting stories where the old veteran returns to show the younger ones how it's done, we have to be realistic when betting, and we've been here before.
Early odds of 10/1 seem about right for the now 12-year-old, an age at which it becomes very difficult to win a top-level race. In the past ten years, there's been over 400 Grade One races in Britain and Ireland and although the number of older horses competing in those races has been quite low, their record is very poor.
In that period, there's been 78 Grade One competitors aged 12 or older with just two winners - namely Sizing Europe in the Punchestown Champion Chase in 2014, and Monet's Garden in this race in 2010.
Blindly Interestingly, blindly backing horses which were the youngest in those Grade Ones returned a profit of 169 points to Betfair SP with 138 winners from 822 runners, despite the fact that it involved backing two horses per race on average.
A loss of 24 points was shown to the traditional industry SP, but the statistics illustrate that it's largely best to avoid the older horses in the top-class races, even though we might be emotionally attached to them and really hope they win.
As such, I'll wish Cue Card well and hope he gets around safe, but I won't be backing him this afternoon.
Paddy Brennan is back on board again with Harry Cobden riding at Wincanton, and Brennan has given Cue Card a glowing report following a schooling session, suggesting he feels as good as last year going into this, if not better.
But I've big concerns about his jumping these days and he looked a little laboured in the Betfair Chase at Haydock in November. He's an absolutely brilliant animal but I fear that age is catching up.
I learned a lesson when a horse I backed was beaten by Waiting Patiently at Carlisle in November, but I got my money back when that horse won the 32Red Casino Chase at Kempton last time.
Fair enough, the best he's won is a Grade Two so far but with five straight wins over fences, Ruth Jefferson's seven-year-old is extremely promising.
This will be his biggest test yet, but his ability to quicken at a good pace can give him the edge over his rivals and this looks a good step on his way to Cheltenham, for which he's entered in the Ryanair Chase.
He's yet to race as far as this, but he'd got plenty left in the tank at Kempton and I'm confident he's got enough talent to take the step up in class here, priced around 9/4.
Top Notch is the obvious danger to the bet and was trading at 7/4 yesterday evening.
Also aged seven, Nicky Henderson's charge was second to Yorkhill in the JLT last year, and there was plenty to like about his authoritative win in the 1965 Chase here in November.
He followed up with a 4/9 win at Taunton last time, but we didn't learn a whole lot there.
With all due respect to Cue Card, this could end up being a match between Waiting Patiently and Top Notch, with the former the one most likely to improve even further ahead of Cheltenham.
In the Grand National Trial at Haydock (3.15), consider backing the Tom George-Trained Wild West Wind, which is expected to go off in the region of 5/1 in the nine-runner Grade Three handicap.
He'll love the heavy ground and was going really well before crashing out in the Welsh Grand National last time out, but he's won three of his last five races and I reckon he still has more to come off a rating of 144 for today.
Connections are very selective in where they enter the horse and the nine-year-old has only had 11 career races to date, but that patience has paid off and he rarely runs a bad one.
I generally try to put up horses priced in double figures for the each-way section of the column, but on occasion it's worth going a little shorter on a horse that has a great chance of placing at the least.
Priced 6/1 yesterday, I'm very keen on David Pipe's Vieux Lion Rouge for the Keltbray Swinley Handicap Chase at Ascot this afternoon (2.25), a horse likely to go for the Grand National again in April having finished sixth in that race last year, and seventh the year before.
He was below form in the Becher Chase last time out, but the handicapper has dropped him a couple of pounds and he takes up an entry here having swerved the Grand National Trial at Haydock today.
Top weight Gold Present also has claims but is a little short around 2/1. He's up 8lbs for his latest handicap success although the runner-up in that, Frodon, has since won too.
1.50 Ascot: Black Corton
2.0 Gowran: Our Duke
2.05 Haydock: Agrapart
2.25 Ascot: Vieux Lion Rouge (e/w)
3.15 Haydock: Wild West Wind
3.35 Ascot: Waiting Patiently
4.25 Haydock: Chef Des Obeaux
Do the double
Racing: Douvan has been scratched from the entries for the Red Mills Chase at Gowran (2.0), leaving Our Duke as the worthy favourite, priced around 5/6. Trained by Jessica Harrington, the Irish Grand National winner was trading odds-on in-running last time in the Irish Gold Cup before making a bad mistake two out in a race won by which went to 33/1 outsider Edwulf. Presenting Percy looks the main danger.
Soccer: In January, Swansea were as short as 2/9 for relegation in the league but under the guidance of Carlos Carvalhal, they are clawing their way out of trouble and are now priced 9/4. With five wins from seven games in all competitions including victories against Liverpool and Arsenal, the steely Swans have become hard to beat lately. Priced 5/4, they can register another success in the FA Cup today against Carvalhal’s old side Sheffield Wednesday, who sit in 15th place in the Championship.