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Cue Card: A horse of a lifetime

Cue Card proved himself to be one of the most popular National Hunt horses of his era and his record of three wins in the Betfair Chase at Haydock ensures his legacy in the winter showpiece.

Cue Card proved himself to be one of the most popular National Hunt horses of his era and his record of three wins in the Betfair Chase at Haydock ensures his legacy in the winter showpiece.

Trained by Colin Tizzard, Cue Card sprung into the public consciousness as a 40/1 Cheltenham Festival bumper winner in 2010 but it was as a chaser that he'd really become insanely popular. 

He won 12 times in 34 starts over fences, making the frame in eight more, and three of his eight Grade 1 wins as a chaser came in Haydock's flagship jumps contest.

Calling Card for Tizzard's golden era

Cue Card became the long-standing torch-bearer in what was a golden spell for Dorset-based trainer Colin Tizzard before he retired and passed that baton to son Joe in 2021.

By the time Cue Card retired in 2018 he had amassed over £1.4million in win and place earnings for owners Bob and Jean Bishop and become a horse the UK and Irish racing public simply adored.

He won two Grade 1s at the Cheltenham Festival, Kempton's King George in one of the best finishes in a generation and twice at Ascot in their intermediate Grade 1 in the early spring, but perhaps it was his three wins in the Betfair Chase at Haydock that cemented his iconic status.

He won the first of Britain's major Grade 1 staying chases on three occasions - in 2013, 2015 and 2016 - and was also fourth and second in a race he contested five years on the trot.

That longevity, of course, was such a key factor in Cue Card's popularity. That, allied to a real determination and will to win, and the ability to come back from some bruising defeats and rise to the summit again.

He was hailed 'horse of a lifetime' by Joe Tizzard after dying of a heart attack aged 16 in December 2022 and Cue Card will be forever synonymous with the Betfair Chase.

Taming a strong cast in first act

His first visit to the Haydock race would see Cue Card going off a 9/1 poke in the betting with Joe Tizzard still his rider at that stage in 2013.

Reigning champ Silviniaco Conti was in the mix for Paul Nicholls, while Cheltenham Gold Cup winners Bobs Worth (favourite) and Long Run gave Nicky Henderson a strong hand to play.

In the end it was the strong-travelling grey Dynaste for David Pipe that gave Cue Card most to think about. Having led from relatively early in the race, the 7YO Cue Card fended of Dynaste to win by more than four lengths.

He ran only once more that season, finishing second to Silviniaco Conti in the King George on Boxing Day. 

Brennan joins the party

Silviniaco Conti would regain his Betfair Chase crown in 2014 as Cue Card finished fourth under Daryl Jacob, with Joe Tizzard now retired from the saddle.

Soon after, a new and prosperous relationship was born when Paddy Brennan became Cue Card's regular rider.

They beat off Dynaste again to win the bet365 Charlie Hall Chase in October 2015 and the Haydock crown was swapped again as Silviniaco Conti took the silver medal a month later, seven lengths shy of an on-song Cue Card.

The 2015/16 season was surely Cue Card's greatest. Following those wins, he rallied in sensational fashion up Kempton's home straight on Boxing Day to thwart Vautour by a head in the King George, after the latter had looked home for all money. 

That set him up for a Cheltenham Gold Cup bid where victory would unlock a £1m bonus not won since the heady days of Kauto Star in 2006/07.

In the Cotswolds, Cue Card and Brennan were moving menacingly well arriving at three out only to fall, leaving favourite Don Cossack to win in a reversal of fortunes from Kempton in December for that pair.

Showing his immense character, Cue Card got off the floor and landed an Aintree Grade 1 three weeks later as he and Brennan won four of their first together.

Haydock hat-trick floors Coneygree

Back at Haydock in November 2016, Cue Card drew swords with reigning Cheltenham Gold Cup kingpin Coneygree. 

They vied for favouritism and there wasn't much in it at the off as Cue Card won that battle, but on the track it was a wider margin.

Coneygree was allowed dictate early on for Richard Johnson, but Brennan was ice-cool in behind and Cue Card hit the front at the fourth last before going clear to win by 15 lengths and complete his hat-trick of Betfair Chase wins. 

He was back for one more go in 2017 but this time it was another grey - and Haydock specialist - in Bristol De Mai that dished out a wide-margin defeat on very testing ground as Cue Card came home a tired second. 

In the spring of 2018 he would finish second to Waiting Patiently when bidding for a third Ascot Chase win and, having also fallen three out in the Gold Cup in 2017, connections opted to try and regain the Ryanair Chase crown he'd secured in 2013 instead.

He was pulled up there and Brennan said afterwards: "I had a split second to decide, he's a legend and you feel like you've got to mind him like a child."

An outstanding career on the racecourse was at an end. It had spanned just over eight years, seven Cheltenham Festival appearances, nine Grade 1 wins and, of course, those three Betfair Chases at Haydock from a performer who thoroughly deserved his billing as the 'horse of a lifetime'.

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