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Ruby Walsh exclusive: Cue Card’s absence changes the whole dynamic of the Cheltenham Gold Cup

Cue Card joins Sprinter Sacre on the injury list with exactly two weeks left to the start of the Cheltenham Festival.

by Ruby Walsh | February 25, 2014

You’d want to be going for the ones that had easier races at the weekend rather than the ones that had to battle with Cheltenham just a fortnight away.

Cue Card’s defection on Tuesday has changed the dynamic of the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Who’s going to make the running?

There’s no other confirmed Grade One winner in the the final-day feature who likes to bowl away and force the pace.  Sure there are front runners in the race, but they’re not the same quality  – so they won’t be able to maintain the same kind of gallop.

This scenario probably plays more to Silviniaco Conti’s strengths as Bobs Worth is a real stayer who has a great kick off a strong gallop. But Conti might just be able to do him now.

Cue Card 840

Sprinter Sacre

It was disappointing for the racing public and connections of Sprinter Sacre that Nicky Henderson had to call time on his season.  Henderson said that he was just that 10 per cent off where he needed to be. But at Cheltenham, that makes all the difference.

For the rest of us though, we’ve a better chance now that one of the stand-out horses of the National Hunt game isn’t there. And that makes the contest a lot more open looking.

It would be unfair on Sire De Grugy to say the contest is wide open as he’s the favourite now on merit.  He was a very good winner of the Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown, won well after Sprinter Sacre pulled up at Kempton and bolted in at Ascot. They’re three of the biggest two mile chases in England and he’s won them all with authority.

I’ll be riding Arvika Ligeonniere who has a little bit to prove going left-handed.  There was no issue with him at Christmas when he was beaten in the Paddy Power Dial-A-Bet Chase – I  just didn’t make enough use of him.  Sire De Grugy is the one to beat though.

Sprinter Sacre

Activial, Triumph Hurdle

Harry Fry’s runner looked quite impressive in the Adonis Juvenile Hurdle at Kempton on Saturday. That’s been a good trail for the Triumph Hurdle in the past. Activial paid a big compliment to Calipto who beat him at Newbury. But I’ve said before that Le Rocher is the one to beat in my eyes after his win over C&D in January.

Irving, Supreme Novices Hurdle

There’s no doubt that Paul Nicholls’ novice was impressive in the Dovecote Novices’ Hurdle. The way he opened up between the last two hurdles was very good. A few have suggested that he mightn’t be able to do that up Cleeve Hill but he’s won around Ascot which is a stiffer track than Kempton. I think it’s very difficult to pick too many holes in that run.

Killultagh Vic, Champion Bumper

I watched the bumper at Naas from the stands and I was very impressed by his performance. I loved the way he ran to the line. Ideally you’d prefer three and a half weeks to the Champion bumper but there’s not – so everyone has to deal with it.

Golantilla was making his seasonal debut and is still an intended runner in the Champion Bumper. But I can’t see how he’ll improve enough in the time that’s left to beat Killultagh Vic at the Cotswolds.




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