Having cruised to victory in the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day, Thistlecrack has now been handed the top handicap rating for a novice, with the eight-year-old rated at 171. Despite competing in just his fourth race over fences since making his debut back in October, the reigning World Hurdle winner swept aside stablemate Cue Card at Kempton, with his current ranking five more than Coneygree before his success in the Cheltenham Gold Cup back in 2015. Trainer Colin Tizzard will have undoubtedly been delighted with the performance of his prized asset, with Thistlecrack now expected to have just one more outing before the Gold Cup in March, with this likely to also come at Cheltenham at the end of January.
Ridden by jockey Tom Scudamore, Thistlecrack ran the perfect race at Kempton, pulling away from his more experienced competitors at the home turn, eventually overcoming Cue Card by a margin of three lengths. Scudamore was even surprised with such dominance, with the meeting between the two Tizzard-trained horses having gained much publicity in the build up to the race. Thistlecrack certainly justified his 11/10 pre-race odds and has now unsurprisingly been installed as the early favourite for the Cheltenham Gold Cup on March 28th.
11-year-old Cue Card was bidding to win back-to-back King George VI victories, however it was Thistlecrack who came out on top in his first real test over fences. With the duo the two standout horses for the race, it came as little surprise that just five entries lined up at Kempton, with Thistlecrack never looking troubled. Tizzard is now 4/1 with Betway to come out on top in the 2016/17 National Hunt Trainers Championship, with Paul Nicholls the overwhelming favourite to defend his crown.
Meanwhile, Thistlecrack’s jockey Scudamore is expected to be out of action for around seven days after a fall at Plumpton on Monday. The 34-year-old was on Bobbits Way for trainer Alan Jones in a two-mile handicap, when he fell at the 11th hurdle. Scudamore was due to be in action at Bangor this week for David Pipe, however fellow jockey David Noonan will now take his place.