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Sunday, 16 December, 2018

'I couldn't back disappointing Thistlecrack for anything'

Our experts' snap verdicts on the Newbury action

Thistlecrack: not what the doctor ordered
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As far as Thistlecrack is concerned, that was just what the doctor didn't order. Given how bullish Colin Tizzard was that the horse was more than fit enough to do himself justice, dropping away to finish a tame fifth has to be considered disappointing. I couldn't back him for anything now.

Unowhatimeanharry was really entitled to win without Thistlecrack, but he was essentially just the best of an average bunch of staying hurdlers in Britain last year and, pushing ten already, he'll do well to be a factor at the festival this season. Take nothing away from the winner Beer Goggles, though. He's improving and his jumping was a joy to behold.

That was a lovely performance by Willoughby Court, who largely measured his fences really well and showed no indication to veer left, as he had done on his debut. He looks like taking high order among the staying novice chasers this year and it will take a good one to lower his colours between now and Cheltenham.

Alan King has been annoyed with suggestions Yanworth should be sent back over hurdles, but it's fair to say his charge is in a slower learning curve. I don't see any reason why King shouldn't persevere, though, as he certainly didn't back off his fences even after a mistake and showed no shortage of courage to get as close as he did.
Paul Kealy, betting editor

Read the race report: 40-1 Beer Goggles slays giants to cause massive upset under Johnson

Dangerous to call Beer Goggles a fluke

Thistlecrack may have needed the run on the back of a ten-month injury-enforced layoff, but in beating only one horse home under such favourable terms his performance in the Long Distance Hurdle was hugely disappointing. There has to be a question as to whether he will ever match the towering heights of the last two seasons.

Beer Goggles was well positioned and took advantage of some below-par performances but it would be dangerous to consider the victory a complete fluke as he had been progressive in handicaps and there is not a lot of depth to the division.

Willoughby Court improved significantly on his reappearance to emphatically win the Grade 2 novice chase, jumping much better than had been the case at Huntingdon. Tough and uncomplicated, he should take high rank in the novice chase division.

Yanworth has not impressed with his jumping over fences and, while his inexperience is an excuse to a degree, he was not a fluent jumper of hurdles either, which suggests marked improvement is unlikely to be forthcoming.
Tony McFadden, reporter

Yanworth undone by jumping flaws

Yanworth briefly looked the winner on the run-in, but in some ways this performance was more concerning than his Exeter fall. Facing good horses over big fences will be his job from now on and his jumping let him down at the first attempt.

An error early in the straight (not his first) and some cautious jumps after meant his finishing rattle didn't contain quite enough. Contrast that with Willoughby Court, who plainly drew plenty from his chasing debut and now looks like being a festival contender again. 

Everything clicked between Richard Johnson and Beer Goggles and, while it was great fun to watch, it may be as high as the winner goes given the progress he has made.

Thistlecrack has more of an excuse than the race-fit Unowhatimeanharry. Either Colin Tizzard overestimated his readiness, or something might come to light.
Keith Melrose, reporter

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Take nothing away from the winner Beer Goggles, though. He's improving and his jumping was a joy to behold
E.W. Terms
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