Paddy Power Column: Cue Card on course for Cheltenham glory

THE Ascot Chase, surprisingly at Ascot, was probably the race of last weekend when winner Cue Card became a leading candidate for Cheltenham, probably in the Ryanair Chase although he does hold an entry in the Queen Mother Champion Chase, after beating Captain Chris by six lengths.

THE Ascot Chase, surprisingly at Ascot, was probably the race of last weekend when winner Cue Card became a leading candidate for Cheltenham, probably in the Ryanair Chase although he does hold an entry in the Queen Mother Champion Chase, after beating Captain Chris by six lengths.

The runner-up is having the season of his life and if he hadn’t of made a horrendous mistake at the second last after being driven in to the lead by a determined Dicky Johnson, he may well have won and in the end, did well to recover for second spot.

However, Captain Chris only has the one entry in the Cheltenham Gold Cup at next month’s festival and I can’t see him being quite good enough, although it wouldn’t be the greatest shock if he managed a place.

But Cue Card, who has always been the apple of trainer Colin Tizzard’s eye, could easily find himself back in the Prestbury Park winner’s enclosure. He started the season with a ridiculously easy win at Exeter before possibly not staying in the King George.

Distances of around two and a half miles seem to be his forte and in my humble opinion, connections would be mad to take on Sprinter Sacre, who beat him seven lengths in last season’s Arkle, over two miles when he would appear to be much better suited to the longer distance anyway.

A good couple of days racing this weekend at Fairyhouse on Saturday and Naas on Sunday and I think that three-time Grade One-winning chaser Pandorama will be tough to beat in the Bobbyjo Chase at the former.

I’ve always loved this horse but trainer Noel Meade, who has entered him in this season’s John Smith’s Grand National at Aintree in April, has been plagued with problems with this high-class animal.

The Flemensfirth gelding was brilliant when winning the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown in 2010 and I thought that he could run a big race in that season’s Gold Cup as long as the ground wasn’t too fast at Cheltenham.

But it wasn’t to be as the ground was good in England and since then he has had just the one run when beaten a long way by Tidal Bay in this season’s Lexus.

That wasn’t his true running though as he was later discovered to have pulled a muscle and an intended engagement in the Hennessy Gold Cup back at Leopardstown failed to materialise as the race came just a bit too soon.

A slight drop in class in the Bobbyjo might just work the oracle and it would be great to see him perform well at Aintree afterwards. Another possible for the National in the shape of Colbert Station could run in Sunday’s feature paddypower.com Newlands Chase at Naas and I think he’s got a great chance of completing a hat-trick.

Now that the weights are out for the English extravaganza, wily trainer Ted Walsh does not have to worry about his grand chaser getting a penalty for Liverpool and he’s probably still well weighted off a mark of 146 following his Paddy Power Chase win.

Turning to the footy despite both Manchester City and Chelsea winning 4-0 in the FA Cup, I think the former are a decent bet at evens to despatch Chelsea on Sunday.

Chelsea had a few chances in the first half against Brentford last Sunday but the lower league visitors looked unlucky to have a ‘goal’ ruled out and it took the Blues an awful long time to get off the mark against them.

City manager Roberto Mancini hopes their win against Leeds can launch a late bid for the title and the likely return of Vincent Kompany and Gareth Barry will help.

Selections

Saturday Fairyhouse 2.35pm Pandorama

Sunday Etihad Stadium 1.30pm Manchester City to beat Chelsea

Sunday Naas 4.10 pm Colbert Station