Sunday 18 February 2018

Tizzard to play his Card right at Haydock

Colin Tizzard: Cue Card’s trainera. Pic: Edward Whitaker
Colin Tizzard: Cue Card’s trainera. Pic: Edward Whitaker

Wayne Bailey

James Chanos, a well-known American investor who made a lot of money when he predicted the fall of Enron, once said that "people who lose money always need someone to blame".

Having drawn an unusual blank at Cheltenham's Open Meeting last week, I'd love to place the blame on a jockey, trainer or someone else but the truth is that the horses I picked just weren't up to it and the wallet was a hell of a lot lighter when I woke up on Sunday morning.

I'd been looking forward to the National Hunt season kicking in proper but now I'm not so sure!

De Mee cost me a packet in the BetVictor Gold Cup. It was just one of those days, which was typified by an unplanned bet in the bumper on the 40/1 outsider China Grey following a so-called tip.

I rarely follow whispers but, having had a mare of a day, I thought I'd place one more bet and let it be the last. Well, last it was. Jonjo O'Neill's filly was never in contention and was the final horse to come home of the 19 runners.


That leaves me on a bit of a recovery mission today but you've got to take the good with the bad in this game and I'm quietly confident I can get some of last week's losses back by having a decent-sized punt on Colin Tizzard's Cue Card, which is expected to go off around 13/8 in the Betfair Chase at Haydock (3.0).

Lucky enough, I avoided Cue Card at 8/11 last time when third behind Irish Cavalier and Menorah in the Charlie Hall recently, but now that he's shaken off the cobwebs he could be a potent force today.

Just like on the flat, you need a very good reason to oppose the top horses and this season, I'll adopt my usual strategy of backing the top-rated horses in non-handicap chases if they are rated 165 or above.

I like to focus on race-fit horses (ran in the last 60 days) and had you adopted that approach since 2008, you'd have had 64 winners from 134 bets (48pc) and show a profit of €170 to a €10 stake.

It's not a fortune but it's fairly consistent and Cue Card ticks the right boxes here with a rating of 176, some 6lbs clear of nearest rival and 2015 Gold Cup winner Coneygree, which is second in the market around 2/1.

A winner of this race twice, it's fair to say Cue Card does have something to prove after the Charlie Hall and he's no spring chicken aged ten, although Snoopy Loopy won this at the same age in 2008, and Kauto Star was eleven when claiming a fourth victory in 2011.

Perhaps he was ridden a little aggressively on his first run back, and it will be interesting to see what tactics are employed by Paddy Brennan this afternoon.

Having suffered some hock problems, it would be nice to see Mark Bradstock's Coneygree run a big race but he hasn't been seen in over a year and I can't be having him at that price.

One of my favourite horses Silviniaco Conti deserves a mention around 13/2 having won this race twice in the past. Also aged ten, Paul Nicholls' charge showed plenty of spirit when second to Valseur Lido in the Champion Chase at Down Royal a couple of weeks ago.

Shortly afterwards at Ascot, Dresden catches the eye in the nine-runner Shawbrook Handicap Chase (3.15) although at 8/1 or thereabouts, I think I'll buy a little insurance and go each-way on Henry Oliver's eight-year-old.

Racing off a mark of 142, he hasn't won in over a year but he's now down to a realistic level in the weights having struggled in some chases off 149 earlier on this year.

He was very poor in the Grade Two Haldon Gold Cup last time out in which Sir Valentino beat Garde La Victoire and Dodging Bullets, but a drop of a couple of pounds should help and this race looks quite open.

Sire De Grugy is one of the bigger names in the field although Gary Moore's ten-year-old is not the force of old and hasn't won since landing the Tingle Creek in 2015.

Back at Haydock, the aforementioned Dodging Bullets gets the nod for Paul Nicholls in the Grade Two Stella Artois 1965 Chase (2.05).

The 2015 Champion Chase winner comes here without a penalty so could be well-in and Nicholls has said he came out of the Haldon Gold Cup in good order. He had a good workout lastTuesday and I'd be happy to take his forecast price of 5/2.

The big danger is, of course, God's Own. He's won two Grade Ones this year although he'll have to carry 11st 11lbs which could be tricky.


Affaire D'honneur slips in nicely near the bottom of the weights in the Betfair Exchange 'Fixed Brush' Handicap Hurdle (2.25 Haydock) and the assessor's rating of 128 looks quite lenient.

A novice hurdle winner in October, he was a little disappointing when fifth in a similar race at Fontwell last time but it was quite competitive and he's best judged on his previous outings.

Two Taffs will probably go off as favourite but looks a little short in the early markets at 4/1. He's very talented but tends to idle sometimes and hung left on the run-in when winning at Carlisle last time. But he looks the sort that would make a good chaser and might be one to keep an eye on in the future.


2.05 Ascot: Dodging Bullets

2.25 Haydock: Affaire D'honneur (e/w)

2.40 Ascot: Yanworth

3.0 Haydock: Cue Card

3.15 Ascot: Dresden (e/w)

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