Cue Card takes the Grade 1 Ascot Chase
Cue Card in action over hurdles at Cheltenham
(Healy Racing Photos)
Joe Tizzard set out to make all aboard his father, Colin's, stable star as they put his stamina to the test in the two mile five and a half furlong contest.
The smart performer travelled with his usual exuberance out in front but his fencing was far from fluent, something that could be said of a number of his rivals.
The field was tightly grouped approaching the turn for home but Cue Card and Captain Chris quickly opened up a commanding advantage over their rivals and settled down to fight out the finish.
Captain Chris had just moved alongside under Richard Johnson, and may even have been in front, at the second last but made a shuddering error at that obstacle, allowing the well-backed 15/8 favourite to come home in his own time.
Finian's Rainbow raced wide throughout on his first run since a breathing operation but failed to get competitive while Somersby travelled well but appeared to be caught flat-footed when the front two quickened on the home turn.
Tizzard snr said: "I'd like to watch it again because it looked to me like Captain Chris was in front when he made the mistake yet Joe said he had another two gears to go for - I'm not so sure about that.
"If Sprinter Sacre wasn't in the two-miler he might go for that but he looks quite frightening. He's favourite for the Ryanair and that probably tells a story but he'll stay in the Queen Mother until the last minute.
"I suspect we'll make a late decision. If Sprinter Sacre wasn't in the Champion Chase that would be very tempting, but if he's there on his A game I d have thought we'd go the other way."
Joe Tizzard said: "I'm chuffed to bits, part of my plan was to make sure he got the trip but he's got it well today.
"He must look worse than feels over a fence as he feels like a good jumper and just wants to get on with it. I would have thought it would be the Ryanair unless something crazy happened."
Sky Bet cut his price for the Ryanair from 5/1 to 4/1 in response to the victory.
Captain Chris' jockey Richard Johnson said: "I think it would have been very close if it wasn't for that mistake. You couldn't be certain. I don't know how Joe was feeling but I thought we were going just as well.
"He can be a bit too brave and hopefully if it dries up we'll get better ground at Cheltenham, I'd like to ride him in the Gold Cup."
Odds-on favourite Zarkandar ran out a ready winner of the Grade 2 Bathwick Tyres Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton this afternoon.