Thistlecrack ‘on his own’ after breathtaking success over gallant Cue Card
First published on Tuesday, December 27, 2016
Thistlecrack justified owners John and Heather Snook’s bold decision to pitch their novice into the big time as he produced a prodigious round of jumping and galloping to become the first novice to win the Grade 1 Boxing Day feature.
Stablemate and last year’s King George winner Cue Card was brushed aside by the home turn as Thistlecrack seemingly effortlessly maintained his gallop as his four rivals flagged.
Tom Scudamore, never feeling the need to pick up his whip, nudged Thistlecrack fully eight lengths clear before having the luxury of looking round on the run-in to tell his eight-year-old partner he had done more than enough.
Thistlecrack, last season’s World Hurdle winner, had already headed the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup market, but Ladbrokes were first to go odds on, 4-5 from 3-1. The general price after the impressive romp was 5-4.
Scudamore, overcome with emotion as he was congratulated by his rivals, said: “He’s on his own. Between myself, my father and grandfather we’ve had about 3,000 winners, and he’s the best one of the lot.”
Colin Tizzard, whose one-two in the race took him past £1 million in prize-money for the season, looked the coolest man on the track.
“You should put your hand on my heart,” said the Dorset trainer. “That was the most nerve-racking thing I’ve ever watched, especially when they came together like that from a fair way out.
“I thought ‘here we go’, but in the end it was just lovely. A fantastic performance – by both horses. Cue Card stuck his head out to finish second.
“They’ve done very well. Good boys,” added Tizzard. “I’ve sat on the fence for six weeks but you’ve all seen what Thistlecrack is capable of. It was just a matter of his jumping – it was brilliant when he was long and brilliant when he was in tight.”
Thistlecrack, who replaced Cue Card as race favourite at 11-10, let only dual King George winner Silviniaco Conti lead him for the first circuit, with Cue Card tucked in behind.
Scudamore let Thistlecrack jump ahead at the fence in front of the stands – much to the delight of the crowd – and his mount again stood ridiculously long off the open ditches and drew ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ from the packed stands.
Paddy Brennan asked Cue Card to give Thistlecrack something to think about down the back straight, but his challenge foundered on the rock that is Thistlecrack, who was still swinging along in Scudamore’s hands as the other four were flat-out into the home bend.
The acclaim had started as Scudamore corrected him to shorten into the last before popping over safely and being eased on the run-in to win by three and a quarter lengths.
Cue Card gamely held second from Silviniaco Conti, who had dropped back to a detached last of the five on the home turn but stayed on to nearly snatch second.
Tizzard’s immediate thoughts were to send Thistlecrack for more experience in the BetBright Trial Chase (formerly the Cotswold Chase) at Cheltenham next month, while saving Cue Card for the Gold Cup rematch with his stablemate.
Thistlecrack, already the World Hurdle winner, seemingly has the chasing sphere at his feet.
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