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Last Updated: 23/11/13 5:00pm
Cue Card produced a fine round of jumping in front
Cue Card produced the performance of his life to take a spellbinding renewal of the Betfair Chase at Haydock.
Cue Card took the step up to three miles plus in his stride as he ran a top-class field into the ground to win the Betfair Chase at Haydock.
It was a brave move by connections to allow Colin Tizzard's Ryanair Chase hero to make the running, having failed on his only effort at three miles in last season's King George.
However, granted a relatively easy lead over three miles and a furlong on this occasion, Joe Tizzard was able to dictate his own pace at the head of affairs and he jumped with aplomb.
Last year's winner Silviniaco Conti looked a big danger three from home, as did Dynaste, but Tizzard had still not asked for everything and after jumping the last Cue Card (9/1) sprinted clear to win by four and a half lengths from the David Pipe-trained Dynaste.
The big disappointment of the race was the Gold Cup winner Bobs Worth, who dropped away tamely to finish sixth.
Colin Tizzard said: "There's been a lot of pressure the last week or so. It's almost brought a tear to my eye. Joe was real coy until about three out, he just sat there and never moved.
"He jumped better than he ever has. He was on his game today, that's for sure.
"It would have been easier staying over two miles as that is where his form was and we were looking at Ascot today with two runners thinking 'why are we here', but this proves he does stay.
"To win these big races you've got to be right on the day. It's a long time until March, but he was dead on his job today.
"There's plenty of water to go under the bridge before March. I assume he'll go to the King George next and then I'm sure he'll end up at Cheltenham in one of the races.
"It's everybody's dream to have a horse good enough to run in the Gold Cup and I'm sure unless we get beat by stayers next time that will be on his compass.
"Everyone says Champion Bumper horses will be three-milers but because he has so much pace we've never done it."
Joe Tizzard, who said he couldn't remember having seen his father cry before, said: "He was brilliant today, he was a different horse from Exeter (third in Haldon Gold Cup), he was bang on the money and proved what he is.
"He finds things so easy, he's brilliant to ride, the pace he's got is lovely in a race like this, we've been running him over the wrong trip!
"He's got that gear which all the best horses have, it's so nice he's proved he gets the trip and it makes him a real Gold Cup horse."
Cue Card was quoted at 5/2 joint-favourite for the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day with sponsors William Hill, but Sky Bet offer 3/1.
"Now that his stamina for three miles cannot be questioned after his victory over a furlong further, Cue Card's claims for the King George are obvious," said spokesman Michael Shinners. "However he was well beaten in the race 12 months ago and those that finished behind him at Haydock may have cause to hope that they can reverse placings."
Runner-up Dynaste is also set take his chance in the Christmas cracker and is quoted at 4/1.
Pipe said: "It was a great performance by the winner, but there are some very good horses behind ours to show we can compete at this level.
"Time will tell if there is improvement to come, but it's on to the King George now.
"It was a true race, no prisoners taken. The best horse has won on the day, but our horse has run a cracker."
Trainer Nicky Henderson admitted his concerns about the track being too sharp for Bobs Worth, despite Haydock's efforts to make it a stronger stamina test, had been borne out.
He said: "They've turned the track round but the two and a half milers have come to the fore. They just took him out of his comfort zone on soft ground first time out.
"That's why we said we would never think of the King George and this has turned out similar. All he wants is that hill (at Cheltenham).
"We'll have to look at the Lexus (Leopardstown, December 28). It's a long time until March.
"It's sad because nobody wants to see the Gold Cup winner come back and get beaten like that. It's not what we wanted, but the writing was on the wall some way out.
"His jumping was all right but he couldn't do what he likes to do. The track was just too sharp for him."
His jockey Barry Geraghty agreed, saying: "I was outpaced a lot of the way and I think a lot of things conspired against him. The ground didn't suit and he missed the last down the back, but I think he was beat at that stage.
"Take nothing away from the winner and Dynaste. They galloped and travelled, but I couldn't go that gallop on that ground.
"I said to connections take no negatives out of it.
"He'll be sharper and will have benefited from it. The Lexus could be a race for him."
Henderson was delighted with the show of Long Run in fourth after his perplexing effort in Wetherby's Charlie Hall Chase. He is to bid for a third win in the King George.
"I thought he ran a great race. He jumped really well and did nothing wrong," said the Seven Barrows handler.
"Robert (Waley-Cohen, owner) said before he would win the Grand National and I wouldn't disagree with him.
"He was brilliant all the way round. That's the best round of jumping from Long Run, so he's learning!
"He'll definitely run in the King George, but will he beat Cue Card, Dynaste and Silviniaco Conti there? They are sharper horses."