Thistlecrack saunters to King George glory
Thistlecrack became the first novice to win the King George VI steeplechase yesterday, cantering home at Kempton Park on what was just his fourth race over fences.
The eight-year-old-winning his ninth successive race-took the race with jockey Tom Scudamore by the scruff of the neck on the final bend easing away from the defending champion Cue Card, trained also by Colin Tizzard, and jumped the last three fences safely to take the £119,000 (140,000euros, $146,000). first prize.
Thistlecrack, the 11/10 favourite who was unbeatable as a staying hurdler last season, is now a short-priced ante-post favourite for the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March. Cue Card-whose hopes of landing jump racing’s Triple Crown and a million pound bonus disappeared with this defeat-stayed on one-paced for second, three lengths in arrears, just ahead of two-time winner Silviniaco Conti.
Scudamore, whose father Peter and Michael were also renowned jockeys, wiped away tears after crossing the line and declared Thistlecrack to be a ‘phenomenon’ “I thought he would win but I never thought as easily as this,” he said. “He’s a phenomenal racehorse.
“He’s a great ride and I am thrilled to be a part of the team.” Scudamore, 34, was unequivocal when asked how high he rated him compared to other horses. “He’s on his own,” he said.
“Between my grandfather (Michael), father (Peter) and myself with thousands of winners he is in a different class.” Tizzard, who initially took up training in 1994 as a secondary pursuit alongside his dairy farming in the South West of England, said Thistlecrack’s display had been quite spectacular.
“It was quite frightening to watch when Cue Card came upsides him eight fences out,” said the 60-year-old. “But racing is a fickle place as Thistlecrack showed. “We had always intended to run him because he is eight-years-old not five or six like a lot of novices. “He’s at the peak of his powers at the moment ,” added Tizzard, who plans to race him one more time at Cheltenham before the Festival. Paddy Brennan brought Cue Card upsides Thistlecrack early on the second circuit to try and give his two years younger stablemate a going over but three from home he cried enough and was left flailing.
“Some things aren’t possible and trying to beat that horse today was one of the most impossible things I’ve ever tried to do,” said Brennan. “My lad was courageous today he stuck his head out after the last and held on.
“Maybe we can turn things round at Cheltenham but everything would need to go right and for the ground to be softer.” Tizzard, though, suggested that Brennan had overplayed his hand too early. “That was maybe three fences too early,” said Tizzard. “But heck a race is a nerve wracking business and no less so for a jockey,” added Tizzard, whose son Joe was a jockey before retiring and becoming his assistant. — AFP
KEMPTON PARK: Thistlecrack ridden by Tom Scudamore wins The King George VI Steeple Chase Race run during day one of the Winter Festival at Kempton Park racecourse, England, yesterday. Britain was hailing a new king of jump racing yesterday after Thistlecrack produced a flawless performance to win the King George VI Chase, one of the most prestigious races on the country’s calendar. — AP