Cue Card holds aces in vintage King George


LONDON — Trainer Colin Tizzard hopes it’s a case of fourth time’s the charm for Cue Card, his rejuvenated chaser who faces an all-star cast in the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Saturday. National Hunt racing’s traditional Boxing Day showpiece has all the hallmarks of being a vintage edition. Joining Cue Card are Paul Nicholls’ hat-trick seeker Silviniaco Conti, runaway Hennessy Gold Cup winner Smad Place, Vautour representing the all-conquering Irish trainer Willie Mullins, and Don Cossack. The latter trained by Gordon Elliott heads the ante-post market at around 9-4. The highest-rated staying chaser in training warmed up in style in a Grade One at Down Royal in October, his fourth straight success. He had Cue Card a country mile behind when landing the Melling Chase at Aintree’s Grand National meeting, and is seeking to become the first Irish-trained horse to land the Kempton prize in a decade. Retired jump jockey legend Tony McCoy was on board at Aintree, and believes Don Cossack is the one to beat. “He’s a much better horse on better ground and I think the less rain we have the better for him, but I think Don Cossack will win the King George,” he told race sponsors William Hill. Cue Card has the little matter of 26 lengths to find on Don Cossack on Melling Chase form, but Tizzard’s admirable servant lines up seemingly at the top of his game, rejuvenated by an operation to improve his breathing. Paddy Brennan’s mount has been foot perfect in his two outings this season, leaving Silviniaco Conti in his wake last time out at Haydock.

“Cue Card is absolutely fine and it’s all stations go to the King George,” Tizzard told The Sporting life. “He has done his last piece of fast work and he will now just be left cantering away until the race. “He has already won two big races so he is under no pressure as long as he shows up to the best of his ability.”