MELISSA JONES: Cheering on Cue Card for a merry Christmas

THERE’S only one racing related Christmas present I want this year and that’s the Gwent bred Cue Card to land the King George at Kempton.

This is his big year judged on an impressive victory in the Betfair Chase last time for this column, where Gold Cup contenders were behind.

Few thought he could stay the three miles but I’ve always thought it would be within range and this track, which requires speed as well as stamina, should suit ideally.

The placed horses at Haydock, Dynaste and Silviniaco Conti will improve for the run so Cue Card has to be on his A-game on Boxing Day to repel them. After setting a decent pace there, the Tizzard wonder was going away at the finish and was nudged out to score with something in hand. If adopting a decent rhythm he will be hard to peg back. Some of my Betfair Chase profit is set to be reinvested.

The selection in what was the December Gold Cup last Saturday, Colour Squadron, ran creditably, however he looks like he needs the assistance of headgear. Meeting a bit of trouble in running before the last was probably a help not a hindrance knowing his quirks but he met it wrong and did not storm up the hill like at the November meeting. The stayer Bradley could do with a visor too in my opinion but at Cheltenham earlier on in the season, trainer Fergal O’Brien told me it would make the horse too keen. Still, both horses could eventually show their true colours with a little more concentration.

It’s hard to believe that at the turn of the year the Cheltenham Festival is three months away. It seems such a long time since the glorious summer now the long, dark nights have set in. Christmas has come around quickly and with it comes the Coral Welsh Grand National next Saturday.

At the media day for the big race trainer Richard Lee was crying out for rain for his two hopes Mountainous and Knock A Hand, but now we have had a deluge of it. Chepstow was hit by 50mm this week which has turned the ground Soft.

“It was very dry through November and the beginning of December so we are in a good position and I would expect the ground to take plenty more rain,” said clerk of the course Keith Ottesen.

“We certainly have no watering worries! We have clay here and once it is soaked it doesn’t dry out. It will be the traditional stamina test.”

If Tidal Bay lines up in the 3m 5f race he will be giving upwards of 10lb to his rivals. As the weights stand there is quite a number out of the handicap and they will struggle to get a run. The 71 entries will be whittled down at the confirmation stage on Monday and only 20 horses can line up.

I would have liked the chances of Safran de Cotte but his mark will be too low to get in, unless a large number of entries pull out. He’s in the Tommy Whittle chase this afternoon and should take all the beating, as muddy conditions and a trip are what he wants. I think City Slicker is the one to beat in the Ladbroke (3.35), I love an Irish challenger and Mullins does not travel for the fun of it.

Finally I’m pleased to hear Big Buck’s is nearing a racecourse return to action. If Paul Nicholls can get him anywhere near his old form like I think he can, he will blow away the opposition in March.

I can hardly wait.

Selections: Haydock 2.05 Safran De Cotte, Ascot 3.35 City Slicker


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