03/16/2016 8:10AM

Cue Card goes for $1.4 million bonus in Cheltenham Gold Cup


CHELTENHAM, England – With 2015 winner Coneygree sidelined with injury, Friday’s $810,175 Cheltenham Gold Cup lacks a standout. There are several accomplished horses who are capable of winning the Grade 1 race at 3 1/4 miles, including Cue Card, Djakadam, Don Cossack, and Don Poli.

The Cheltenham Gold Cup is England’s top weight-for-age race for steeplechasers.

As of Wednesday morning, Don Cossack was the 3-1 favorite with British bookmakers, a slight choice over Djakadam at 7-2, and Cue Card and Don Poli at 4-1. The race drew a field of 10 and is run over 22 fences.

The stakes are highest for Cue Card, a 10-year-old gelding trained by Colin Tizzard for Jean Bishop. If Cue Card wins the Gold Cup, he will earn a bonus of $1.44 million for sweeping the three biggest weight-for-age chases of the season. Cue Card won the Grade 1 Betfair Chase at Haydock Park on Nov. 21 and the Grade 1 King George VI Chase at Kempton Park on Dec. 26, in his most recent start.

The bonus is offered by Jockey Club Racecourses, which owns the three racetracks.

By King’s Theatre, Cue Card has won 13 of 28 starts in his career, which began with four consecutive wins in late 2010. He opened the current steeplechase season with a win in the Grade 2 Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby in October.

Cue Card represents England’s best chance for a Gold Cup win. Djakadam and Don Poli are trained in Ireland by Willie Mullins. Don Cossack is trained in Ireland by Gordon Elliott.

Djakadam, 7, was second in the 2015 Gold Cup, but fell in his most recent start, the Grade 2 Cotswold Chase here on Jan. 30. Don Poli, 7, won the Grade 1 Lexus Chase in Ireland on Dec. 28 in his last race.

Don Cossack fell in the King George VI Chase as the 15-8 favorite, but rebounded to win the Grade 2 Kinloch Brae Chase at Thurles, Ireland on Jan. 14. Don Cossack, 9, has won 15 of 26 starts. He could be the first Gold Cup winner for the 38-year-old Elliott, whose stable has risen in prominence in recent years.

Don Cossack will be ridden by Bryan Cooper, who has also been the regular rider of Don Poli. Davy Russell will ride Don Poli. Russell won the 2014 Gold Cup on Lord Windermere.