What a fantastic effort by CUE CARD to take the Betfair Chase with a front-running effort for most of the race. He was there for the field to take on in the straight but fought off all challengers and won in a commanding manner. As I wrote on yesterdays blog... "CUE CARD: If he stays 3-mile, he wins" - it was as simple as that. I have always been convinced that he is a brilliantly talented chaser who just happens to be around at the time of a complete freak of nature in Sprinter Sacre. Before yesterday, my only doubt about him was whether he would stay 3-mile. I wasn't sure, even tho' I'd wagered on him to win the 3-mile King George Chase at Kempton last Boxing Day. That day, his jumping let him down as he came to the course "wired" and made several mighty blunders early in that race that ruined his chance.
Right now, I rate his performance of winning the Betfair Chase equal to that of Bobs Worth winning the last Cheltenham Gold Cup; basically I rate both efforts at 174. As far as recent staying chasers go, 174 is 2lb better than both Tidal Bay and Long Run at their best. By my reckoning, 174 would have seen CUE CARD beat Syncronised 6+ lengths in the 2012 Gold Cup. I feel a bit sorry for Long Run as he's been very highly tried thru'out his young life, he's only an 8yo, and is perhaps 15lb below his best now and in decline. He deserves an honourable retirement having more than fulfilled his promise and paid his dues. Silviniaco Conti is short of Gold Cup class by about 5lb. By coincidence, the previous time CUE CARD and Silviniaco Conti met as novice chasers, the "gap" between them was 5lb with CUE CARD the superior horse. There is no guarantee that CUE CARD will repeat this effort in the Gold Cup in March, but he does love Cheltenham and that is a huge positive. Of course, Bobs Worth also loves Cheltenham, but his effort in the Betfair Chase was lacklustre. Whether he would have been able to come from behind and catch CUE CARD last March had that one been leading over the final couple of fences (had he gone for the Gold Cup instead of the Ryanair Chase) is - in my opinion - debatable. Then again, Cheltenham is a stiffer course than Haydock, and the Gold Cup is a couple of furlongs further (there is some debate that the trip at Haydock was actually 3m1f or, more likely, just 3-mile). Whatever, trainer Nicky Henderson has one helluva job getting Bobs Worth back on track, and he'll likely need at least 2 runs before March to show he's the horse he was last March.
As a betting man, the horse that is "value" to take from the Betfair Chase is DYNASTE. I was very impressed at the way he was brought gently, but menacingly, into the race on the 2nd circuit by Tom Scudamore. Remember, this horse won the Feltham Novices Chase on the same card as the King George last Boxing Day, so we know he handles that track and stays the trip well - and he has improved about 10lb since then. Is there some improvement to come? Probably, as his best form is on Good-to-Soft ground (not the soft/heavy it was yesterday). We also know the horse loves Cheltenham, with his only poor run there when flopping in the World Hurdle (that was on good ground). I'd say he has a good chance of running CUE CARD close on Boxing Day and odds of 5/1 look fair as, other than CUE CARD, there is nothing else likely to race that can beat him. I'd certainly expect DYNASTE to be more likely to stay the Gold Cup trip than CUE CARD, and the 16/1 available with Betfred for the Gold Cup looks an eachway steal. There are no dangers lurking in Ireland as both Sir Des Champs and First Lieutenant are already shown to be not good enough.
My selections yesterday were disappointing. VIVA COLONIA ran the best of the pair, but was nowhere near the level of performance I expected. Perhaps the drop in trip exposed his lack of speed to be competitive at 2-mile. Another of my alert horses, Saved By John, ran well and showed improved form; but by running so unrestrained in the first mile must have cost him plenty of energy and I'd say cost him the race. If he can be taught to settle then he's possibly a 145+ performer. As for CHAC DU CADRAN, he had a stinker! He's run well on soft ground before, so that wasn't the problem, but he was struggling before they had completed half a mile. Having looked again at his profile, he's mainly raced in class 4, and perhaps he likes to be able to dominate, whereas he couldn't do that in this class 3 race. Food for thought.
The winner of the race NUTS N BOLTS looks a sure-fire horse to follow. His jumping in the final mile was awful, but he still saw off the challenges and stayed on strong. The horse loved the going, he's now won 5 of his 8 starts on soft/heavy but, personally, I did not think he'd stay this extreme trip.
Finally, a word for SILVER BY NATURE who returned to Haydock, the scene of his greatest triumph when beating OUR VIC on heavy ground. I rated Saturdays run by Silver By Nature at 152 and, if he can find his usual 7lb improvement for his seasonal debut, he will be right in the frame for the Welsh National, a ran he was 2nd in back in 2009.