Cue Card to miss King George in favour of spring campaign before retirement | Sport

Cue Card, one of the most popular steeplechasers of the last decade, is likely to miss the King George VI Chase at Kempton Park on Boxing Day before a three-race swansong at Ascot, Cheltenham and Aintree in the spring of 2018, Colin Tizzard, the 11-year-old’s trainer, said here on Friday. “Then,” Tizzard added, “I’ll have him as my hunter.”

As recently as Wednesday, reports suggested that Cue Card would be part of a three-strong team for the King George from the Tizzard stable, alongside Thistlecrack, last year’s winner, and Fox Norton, the runner-up in last weekend’s Tingle Creek Chase. Instead, he may not be seen on a track until the Grade One Betfair Ascot Chase in February, a race he has won twice in the past.

“We probably won’t run Cue Card,” Tizzard said. “I was talking to Jean [Bishop, the gelding’s owner] and we’ll probably just mind him a little [as] the King George is a bit red hot.

“He had a hard old race at Haydock [behind Bristol De Mai in the Betfair Chase] and we just want to have three runs in the spring and then retire him, I think that’s what we’ll do. We went to treat him properly, and that King George, it’s going to be a hot race, so we can go to Ascot, then come here for the Ryanair or the Gold Cup [in March] and then to Aintree.

“He’s a lovely horse and he’s nearly as good as he’s ever been. There’s no need for us to back off, he’s a racehorse and we’ll have three nice spring races.”

Thistlecrack, who produced an exceptional display to win the King George as a novice last season, remains on course for Kempton despite an underwhelming return from injury in the Long Distance Hurdle at Kempton a fortnight ago.

“He schooled well this week,” Tizzard said. “We might have been a bit kind to him [before Newbury] but we were always catching up, and always thought we needed a race for the King George.

“He’s come out of it and looks completely different, he’s tightened up and schooled well, so he’ll do plenty of work next week.”

Tizzard was speaking after the success of Sizing Tennessee in the card’s three-mile novice chase, the nine-year-old’s first win over fences at this third attempt. It was far from a flawless round of jumps from the 2-1 favourite, who had failed to complete in two earlier races this season, but he stayed on strongly up the hill to beat Duel At Dawn by six lengths.

“We never thought he had an issue with his jumping until this year, when he fell at the first meeting here,” Tizzard said. “He just galloped into the second at Ascot [last time] and he was definitely unnerved after that. When we were schooling him, he was guessy, even on a good stride.

“We’ve done plenty of schooling in the last week, but he was still a bit guessy out there today. But he’s got a big, powerful engine, and he’ll probably run a couple more times and then he’ll be an RSA [Novice Chase] horse, I’d have thought.”

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