Folding Card re-opens stamina debate
Colin Tizzard is certainly one of the more colourful trainers in the sport. Having turned a pleasant shade of autumn purple after Cue Card's Betfair Chase romp, he went almost as white as a sheet in the immediate aftermath of the horse's defeat in the William Hill King George VI Chase.
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For him, answers had I none. Three out Cue Card was going to win, two out he was going to win, over the last he was... well... probably going to win. Yet at the winning post, he was ultimately well held, Silviniaco Conti having swept past without much fuss on the run-in.
It's hard to imagine that the winner could have produced a much better Gold Cup trial than this and he thoroughly deserves his place at the head of the betting for his bid to erase his bad luck in the contest last season. As an aside, he also wins the prize for the most-mispronounced name heard on the racecourse, with a number of varieties being offered in celebration by winning punters.
But when asked whether Cue Card remained on course for the same race, there was a brief pause before Tizzard offered a slightly less-than-convicing "of course" in response.
We found out at Haydock that he definitely stays three miles, right? (Even if the doubters are correct that the contest might not quite have been over the specified trip that day, he surely wouldn't have been caught had the race been over another furlong.) So why didn't he seem to quite see it out as well today?
Might the Haydock race have just taken the edge off the horse? Could it have been the rain-softened ground here? Might he have gone a little too quick today? Is he a better horse left-handed rather than right? Could the virus lingering in the yard have taken its toll?
Questions too were left in the air after the victory of My Tent Or Yours over The New One in the Christmas Hurdle.
Winning rider Tony McCoy (whose young daughter heroically shouted "you're the champion" at him as he came back into the winner's enclosure, a sentence my children are highly unlikely to ever shout at me - not that I'm bitter) admitted that he had been more impressed than after the same horse's Fighting Fifth Hurdle victory at Newcastle last month, but went on to drop a hint that he wasn't ruling out something even better from Jezki when that horse lines up against Hurricane Fly and Our Conor in the Ryanair Hurdle at Leopardstown on Sunday.
"What I liked about that performance was the way he fought when I asked him to go," said McCoy. "After Cheltenham last season [in the Supreme] I just had one or two niggling doubts, although to be fair to him the winner [Champagne Fever] is probably a very good horse and a very good stayer.
"You can argue that The New One might be better suited by Cheltenham but it's 50/50 on that. A faster-run race might suit us more and you'd think you're going to get that in the Champion. There are pros and cons.
"I don't think there's much between them and if they finish 1-2 again in the Champion, I'll just be hoping it's in the same order - if I'm riding My Tent Or Yours, that is."
So a good day's work for My Tent Or Yours, for Silviniaco Conti's jockey Noel Fehily who worked his socks off for the first leg of a double aboard Loose Chips, and also for the bookmakers, who skinned a fair Boxing Day crowd with six out of six losing favourites.
Sprinter Sacre's return to action is likely to bring about an unusually-high attendance for the second day of the William Hill Winter Festival on Friday, but if you're coming my advice is to bring some cheese.
At a fiver for a burger, or £5.50 for the addition of a processed slice of orange sludge, by my reckoning anyone who turns up with a couple of decent size packs of value cheddar in their coat pockets could turn a good few hundred pounds on the black market before racing even gets going.