I know there have been whispers about his well-being but if I had the choice I’d love to ride Cue Card in the King George VI Chase on December 26th.
The King George is either a mid-season highlight in the UK or an end-of-year finale – depending on your point of view. But whatever way you slice it – it’s still a cracking race.
I’ve heard some pundits say that Cue Card disappointed in the race last year. Anyone can be forgiven an off day.
I was impressed by his win at Haydock last month and he proved he’s plenty of pace by winning last year’s Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham over 2m 5f. But his pedigree screams stamina to me. He looks the perfect type for Kempton and I think he’ll uphold the form with Dynaste.
David Pipe’s runner was a run-away winner of last season’s Feltham Chase and is a genuine Grade One horse. But I just can’t see where he will make up the ground to reverse the form with Cue Card. Silviniaco Conti may well improve on his run at Haydock behind the pair but that might just be enough to get him past Dynaste.
If there’s a potential Cheltenham Gold Cup winner in the field then Silviniaco Conti could be it. The stiffer test at Cheltenham might suit him best. Gordon Elliott sends Mount Benbulben over from Ireland but jumping has been his achilles heel in the past. Kempton’s fast, flat-track doesn’t reward poor jumping.
Al mighn’t be Ferof
I would have ridden last season’s Paddy Power Gold Cup winner Al Ferof if I had still been riding for Paul Nicholls. He could give Cue Card most to do.
They’ve crossed paths before and there’s very little between them.
- Cue Card was a 40/1 shot when beating Al Ferof in the 2010 Champion Bumper at Cheltenham
- Al Ferof won the Supreme Novices the following year with Cue Card back in fourth.
- Neither could match Sprinter Sacre in the 2012 Arkle but Cue Card finished second to Al Ferof’s fourth.
Their careers have gone in different directions since but Cue Card has won a Grade One chase over 3m. Al Ferof has hinted he could do the same – Cue Card just gets the nod.
Lexus Chase, Leopardstown, December 28
The Lexus Chase at Leopardstown is shaping up to be a cracking race and the first two home . The Gold Cup first and second Bobs Worth and Sir Des Champs could both line up but their reputations have been dented. Bobs Worth was disappointing at Haydock. He looked lethargic and will have to improve drastically to win.
Sir Des Champs took a very heavy fall at the third fence on his seasonal bow at Punchestown. He’ll arrive at the Lexus needing to restore his confidence on what is basically his first run of the season. Aintree winner First Lieutenant has yet to reach the standard he set last season.
Paul Nicholls may send Unioniste over andf he won well at Aintree last time while Jum Culloty’s Lord Windemere won the RSA Chase at the festival last March and was hampered when finishing eighth in the Hennessy at Newbury.
Unionist is an improving five-year-old who stayed on strongly to win in Aintree on his last start. He does have a bit of ground to make up on Lord Windermere on last season’s RSA chase form. Jim Culloty’s charge ran okay in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury earlier this month and should improve from it.
If I was to select one of these to upstage the big names it would be Unioniste who is a stronger stayer in my eyes.
I hate to hear these two races called Gold Cup trials because they are prestigious Grade One contests in their own right. But both will have a huge effect on the Cheltenham Gold Cup market. Keep an eye on the placed horses in both contests as they could go under the radar come March.
Home is where the heart is
My Christmas will in all likely hood will be very different to what I have become used to in the last 10 years.
My change in jobs has enabled me to be well aware of what my girls would like Santy to bring and while I will probably be in Leopardstown for all four days and not Kempton.
I hope Santy still comes to me there though!
Kauto Star was the best present any jockey could have for five years years. The stocking looked a bit empty last year but Tidal Bay swooped late in the Lexus to leave me smiling. All I want this year is for Willie Mullins’ horses to stay in the sort of form they’re in now.
Ruby’s Christmas dinner
It all depends on what weight I have to do on the 26th but I won’t stray too far from the tried and tested.
I’ll have nothing for breakfast but for Christmas dinner there’ll be a prawn cocktail for a starter and maybe Ham and turkey, veg, potatoes – but there’ll be no dessert. That’s it!
Coffee, water, diet whatever to wash it down. but no ‘drink-drink’.
Still, it’s great not to have to put up with bad airport coffee on the 26th.