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Tony Calvin on the Betfair Chase: Cue Card the early fancy to record fourth win

Cue Card will bid to win his fourth Betfair Chase at Haydock on Saturday
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A fantastic renewal of the Betfair Chase will take place at Haydock on Saturday, and here with his early thoughts on the seven runners is our resident tipster Tony Calvin...

"If he is none the worse for that fall, and he has bounced back well from his last two mishaps, then he will take a fair bit of beating if at his best."

Sizing John has been the market-leader for the Betfair Chase ever since the betting came out - he has been available at 2/1 and as short as 5/4 - but I am not sure that he will even go off as favourite on Saturday.

In fact, it wouldn't be the greatest shock in the world were he to be the biggest price he has yet been come the weekend.

So it is rather unfortunate, then, that the Betfair Sportsbook have literally just pushed him out in the betting and made him their industry-best 9-4 second-favourite with Bristol De Mai as their 13-8 jolly, rather stealing my thunder and ruining my line somewhat!

But I will plough on regardless, he said sulking, and the reason I think that will be the case is that Sizing John's connections will be very wary of bottoming the horse first-time-out in what promises to be gruelling conditions.

It is currently soft ground, with a wet week forecast, so the 3m1f125yd - remember, the race is being run over an extra 321 yards this year - will take some getting on Saturday, and race-fitness will be a huge plus, and that is something that the Gold Cup winner lacks.

Of course, he handles soft ground perfectly well and he is just about the form horse in the race on his Cheltenham win, but Haydock in November is no place for the feint-hearted at the best of times, let alone on your first run since April with a long season ahead.

But his late owner Alan Potts wanted to take in this race and go for the Jockey Club's £1m bonus for winning at Haydock, the King George and the Gold Cup, so here he is.

Mind you, he has had a couple of racecourse gallops, and a school around Naas, so it is not as if he will be coming here seriously underdone.

However, I can see others taking the Sportsbook's lead and opposing him in the betting as the week progresses as, in Bristol De Mai and Cue Card, he meets two serious form rivals who have had an outing (one was truncated, granted) have winning course form and who handle testing conditions, maybe even relishing them.

New jockey as Tizzard star goes for fourth win

I have to start with Cue Card, who was briefly available at 5/1 each-way, three places, early on Monday - Betfair Sportsbook were rightly ducking him at 10/3 this morning, and are now 3/1 - and who is going for his fourth win in this race at the age of 11.

He comes here after a fall in the Charlie Hall at Wetherby - his second in his last three starts, and his third in the last 10 - which has prompted connections to ditch Paddy Brennan in favour of Harry Cobden.

Make of that decision what you will, though it is arguably a big gamble as the horse isn't straightforward and it is also worth bearing in mind that Brennan reported that Cue Card was unsighted by the sun when ploughing straight through the fifth-last at Wetherby, when still travelling powerfully.

Mind you, that is not the first fall of its kind that the horse has experienced.

If he is none the worse for that fall, and he has bounced back well from his last two mishaps, then he will take a fair bit of beating if at his best.

He posted two wide-margin winning distances in this race and at Ascot last season that were probably at least the equal of Sizing John's Gold Cup win and it is hard to forget how he laughed at Coneygree on heavy ground here last November.

Charlie Hall winner heads the market

However, the market clearly thinks the horse that won that Wetherby race, Bristol De Mai, is the safer betting conveyance here and that's probably fair enough, though he doesn't have the most consistent profile of late, that's for sure.

He is two from two at this track, and he was ridiculously impressive when winning the Peter Marsh by 22 lengths off a mark of 154 here last January. And he returned to the level of form when giving his hugely talented stablemate Blaklion 6lb and ½ length beating at Wetherby, pulling miles clear of a horse in third (Definitly Red) who always goes well when fresh.

In summary, I think Sizing John has plenty on his plate on Saturday, and I expect the market to reflect that at the weekend, though he can't really drift too much from 9/4 now, I would have thought.

Don't believe it's just a three-horse race

There is no Might Bite in here, but we perhaps shouldn't make the mistake of thinking this is a three-horse race, as the betting currently suggests.

Outlander and Tea For Two are 164-rated chasers, so it is no massive leap of faith to see them making their presence felt, even if it is only for the minor placings.

Outlander won the Lexus last December and he put a series of poor efforts behind him when winning another Grade 1 at Down Royal on his return when tried in first-time cheekpieces. He is race-fit and proven in the ground.

Tea For Two put to bed the idea that he was a "right-hand bully" when beating Cue Card by a head in the Betway Bowl at Aintree, and has winning form on heavy ground.

However, I think he wants a speedier test on better ground than he is likely to get here, and he was very disappointing in the Old Roan on his return, albeit that was over 2m4f.

Even though conditions could play to the strengths of Shantou Flyer, it is hard to make a cogent case for him in this company, even at his chunky odds of 50/1, and the same is true of 20/1 shot Traffic Fluide at his first start beyond 2m6f, let alone this extended 3m1f on likely heavy ground.

At this stage, it is Cue Card for me at the current prices.


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