Bill Esdaile pays a visit to Kempton hopeful’s stable
CUE Card, a dual Cheltenham Festival winner and ante-post favourite for next week’s William Hill King George VI Chase, is certainly not alone at Venn Farm.
The seven-year-old shares his small, picturesque Dorset stables with 67 other racehorses and 235 dairy cows under the watchful eye of father-son trainer-jockey combination Colin and Joe Tizzard.
Tizzard senior, one of National Hunt racing’s much-loved characters, was reduced to tears live on air at Haydock last month when his beloved Cue Card, with Joe in the saddle, demolished a high-class field in the Betfair Chase.
Looking back on that magical performance, Colin is even more pleased by the fact that his stable star did not seem to have a hard race. “Joe never used his stick on our fellow,” he says, “and he was straight back in work a couple of days later.”
If there is one fly in the ointment, it is that the only time Cue Card has finished out of the frame in his last 10 starts was in last year’s King George at Kempton, where he finished a legless fifth behind Long Run. His pilot isn’t concerned, however, and believes the reversal proved to be the making of the horse: “After last year’s Kempton race, he doesn’t ‘pull’ anymore. He was so tired from three out that he now knows he has to save a little bit.”
Joe, who milks the cows once a week on the farm he now runs, feels that Cue Card is in great form and just wants to keep him right for another week.
“He was brilliant at Haydock and I still had plenty of petrol left in the tank,” he adds. “He’s in great shape. I’m not one of those people who worry themselves silly over things. I’ll sleep well on Christmas night for certain.”
If all goes well at Kempton next week, Cue Card will return to Cheltenham next spring. For now, everyone at the yard is focused on Boxing Day, but his trainer already has one eye on March – and one race in particular.
He added: “It’s everyone’s dream to have a runner in the Gold Cup and I’ll never have a better chance than I do now.”