Before yesterday's Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter, trainer Colin Tizzard largely kept his counsel, explaining that he would prefer to let his contender Cue Card do the talking. Afterwards, he had to admit that the gelding had not so much metaphorically chatted as yelled from the roof of the grandstand.
In his first race as a senior, Cue Card produced an exhilarating display to take the Grade Two chase by 26 lengths with his ears cheerfully pricked, leaping the last of the 12 fences as slickly as the first and galloping straight into the reckoning for next month's King George VI Chase at Kempton. The six-year-old, available at 25-1 for the mid-season showpiece in the morning, is now as short as 8-1.
Three miles round flat, sharp Kempton is a very different test from yesterday's two and a quarter at the undulating Devon track, but Tizzard feels it will suit. "Over the longer distance, Kempton would be the ideal course for him," he said. "And you couldn't really fault what he did today."
Cue Card was chased home by Edgardo Sol after Menorah blundered at the last, but the 5-6 favourite was long gone by then. "He was just brilliant," said Tizzard's son, Joe, in the saddle. "He loves running in front, but he's not a runaway, just enthusiastic about his job. He's such fun to ride."
The son of King's Theatre was very smart in bumpers, over hurdles and, last term, in novice chases. "He's been a baby up to now, whatever he's achieved," added Tizzard Jr. "His real future is from now on."
Earlier, the best that the eight-strong European challenge for the latest prestige pot on the international Flat circuit, the Melbourne Cup, could manage was the minor (if lucrative) honour of third. The £2.5m first prize went to the 19-1 shot Green Moon, trained locally by Robert Hickmott and enterprisingly ridden by Brett Prebble to grab first run going into the final furlong.
A length back was Fiorente (30-1), who picked up £592,105 for the Gai Waterhouse yard. Then came Jakkalberry, trained by Marco Botti in Newmarket. At 80-1, the six-year-old was the least fancied of the raiders but stayed on well to snatch third, and £296,000, from Kelinni.
The northern hemisphere brigade, which included the last two winners, Dunaden and Americain, and last year's nose runner-up Red Cadeaux, were the first five in the betting but the best of them was Luca Cumani's Mount Athos, who ran into fifth spot with a late flourish. The two-mile handicap became a crawl with a sprint finish and a myriad of hard-luck stories, many self-inflicted by uninspired rides.
The first two home, though now in Australian stables, once plied their trade in these parts. Green Moon (who actually beat this year's Dubai World Cup winner Monterosso in a handicap at Newbury) was with Harry Dunlop, and Fiorente with Sir Michael Stoute.
Green Moon was a fourth Melbourne Cup winner for reclusive veteran owner Lloyd Williams, for whom Hickmott has trained privately for 11 years, after Just A Dash (1981), What A Nuisance (1985) and Efficient (2007).
A world way from flash Flemington, nine-year-old La Estrella created a piece of British history at Southwell yesterday by taking the 11-furlong claimer, worth £1,704. It was the 13th victory in as many runs at the track for the gelding, trained by Don Cantillon in Newmarket, bettering the mark set by the Rowley Mile specialist Royal Charlie during the 1870s.
Chris McGrath's Nap
Auntie Kathryn (12.10 Nottingham) A change of stable brought a first victory, a clear-cut success in similar company and conditions to today's. Seems to have improved for her move and can defy her penalty.
Whipcrackaway (1.50 Warwick) His second run over hurdles was much better than his first; though he made a couple of late mistakes, he and the well-regarded winner pulled a long way clear.
Where the money's going
Dedigout has been introduced into the RSA Chase market at 12-1 after a wide-margin winning debut over fences at Punchestown yesterday.
One to watch
Super Duty (Donald McCain), runner-up over a too-short two miles on his debut over fences last month, is a bright prospect for novice staying chases.