Thistlecrack misses the Gold Cup: Tizzard star ruled out of festival again
Thistlecrack will miss the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup for the second successive year due to a stress fracture.
The ten-year-old, who was ruled out of last year's race with a tendon tear, has suffered a leg injury. Immediately after the race last March, he was a best-priced 5-1 favourite for the 2018 edition, but after two defeats this season he had drifted to 12-1 joint-fifth favourite.
"Thistlecrack misses the Gold Cup and is likely to be out for the season," said trainer Colin Tizzard on Monday.
"A bone scan has revealed that he has a small stress fracture. It's at the top of the tibia."
The news is another jolt for jumps fans following some lacklustre Leopardstown performances from the likes of Sizing John – last year's Gold Cup hero – Yorkhill, Djakadam and Faugheen, while Nichols Canyon sadly suffered a fatal injury.
Neither Altior nor Douvan have made it to the track this season, a season in which bookmakers have started to offer non-runner no bet on Cheltenham Festival races much earlier than usual amid so many shock results and setbacks.
Thistlecrack, owned by John and Heather Snook, was last seen finishing a more encouraging fourth in his defence of the King George on Boxing Day, having been a rather laboured fifth at Newbury on his reappearance over hurdles after 11 months out of action.
Kim Tizzard, daughter of the trainer, added at Fontwell on Monday: "He has been off today for bone scans as he was stiff after the King George – he has a small hairline fracture and he misses the Gold Cup and probably the rest of the season."
What a difference a year makes
December 26, 2016 Wins King George at 11-10 from stablemate Cue Card
January 8, 2017 Thistlecrack as short as 4-5 in Gold Cup betting
February 21, 2017 Tendon tear puts him out of Gold Cup
December 1, 2017 Returns amid great fanfare as 11-10 fav for Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury. Finished fifth of six
December 26, 2017 Fourth of eight, beaten less than six lengths by Might Bite in King George at 5-1
The injury is another blow for the Tizzard yard in a season when stable stars Cue Card, Fox Norton, Finian's Oscar and Slate House have disappointed more often than they have dazzled, while Unibet Champion Hurdle hope Pingshou and Gold Cup contender Native River are yet to run. Betway on Monday quoted Tizzard at 4-1 to have a winner at the festival.
This time last year Thistlecrack was seen as jump racing's brightest star after becoming the first novice to win the King George. It was a victory that delighted racing fans, confirmation of a wondrous talent and a sign of much better times for Tizzard as he led home a one-two from stablemate Cue Card.
It was his ninth consecutive win, a fifth Grade 1 and he was the odds-on favourite to make the Gold Cup his second victory at the Cheltenham Festival. However, later in January last year he was just denied by the ill-fated Many Clouds in the Cotswold Chase, and that winning habit has not returned.
His latest injury has resulted in Might Bite shortening at the head of the Gold Cup market and David Stevens of Coral, who sponsor Tizzard's stable, said: "Thistlecrack was a 16-1 chance for the Gold Cup following his run in the King George, and had been the subject of some support for Cheltenham following a positive report from connections last week, so his absence is a blow for connections and punters, while it has also seen Might Bite harden at the head of the betting."
Lat month's King George winner Might Bite was on Monday night a best-priced 4-1, with Sizing John second favourite at 6-1 despite his seventh-placed finish in the Leopardstown Christmas Chase.
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