Friday 24 November 2017

Tizzard can be crowned king

Trainer's two stable stars Thistlecrack and Cue Card to clash at Kempton in a cracker

Tom Scudamore celebrates winning the Ryanair World Hurdle on Thistlecrack at Prestbury Park, Cheltenham last March. Pic: Sportsfile
Tom Scudamore celebrates winning the Ryanair World Hurdle on Thistlecrack at Prestbury Park, Cheltenham last March. Pic: Sportsfile

Trainer Colin Tizzard is odds on with bookmakers Paddy Power to saddle the first two home in Monday's King George at Kempton following yesterday's confirmation that Thistlecrack will step out of novice company for his fourth start over fences and take his place in one of the most prestigious races in National Hunt racing.

The World Hurdle winner conquered all before him in staying hurdles last season and given that he will turn nine next month, running in the Gold Cup next March always seemed favoured by connections, even though he would only be a novice over fences.


Thistlecrack is already the 5/2 favourite with BoyleSports for the Cheltenham Gold Cup as he looks to emulate Coneygree, who won the race as a novice in 2015, and yesterday evening he was 11/8 joint favourite with his stable companion Cue Card for Monday's Grade One at Kempton.

Despite being unbeaten in three starts over fences, Thistlecrack has split opinion regarding his jumping, with some suggesting he is novicey while others maintain that he would be better at a stronger gallop which he will certainly get in the King George.

But there was no doubt that his last start at Newbury was his most convincing and Tizzard is looking forward to the prospect of both his horses taking each other on.

He said: "The owners want to go for the King George and I'm in full backing with it.

"It would have been easier if Cue Card wasn't in it, but he is and he's in very good form so they can both go. Thistlecrack probably school on Wednesday morning, maybe Cue Card as well. He won't do any more just because he's going for the King George, we've got a system that works quite well."


Tizzard, who is enjoying a fine season and will also have leading fancy Native River running in the Coral Welsh National attempting to book his place in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, insists he didn't have any input into where Thistlecrack was going to run over Christmas.

"It's John and Heather's (Snook) horse and as owners they have the right to say where he is going to run.

"We'd been saying for the last three weeks that we were going to leave the decision as long as we could, but we thought it was only fair that we told people what we intended to do.

"Cue Card's owners have sat down with Thistlecrack's owners and they are both in agreement the King George is a once-in-a-lifetime race and both horses are in cracking form, so they should take their chance.

"Thistlecrack is eight coming nine, we know he can gallop and win a World Hurdle. He's had three chases and last time his jumping was immaculate.

"Do we need to wait another year before we try to win a King George with him? The owners had the final say and they wanted to go, I fully support it."

Irish involvement in the King George is likely to be scarce but Gordon Elliott is eyeing up the possibility of sending over John Durkan Chase runner-up Outlander.

Fresh from having five winners on Sunday, the current leader in the Irish trainers championship said yesterday: "Obviously Gigginstown have got plenty for Leopardstown (Lexus Chase).


"He came out of his last race very well, so I'm thinking we might run him in the King George, all being well."

Meanwhile, a former Champion Hurdle winner could well look to take up the mantle from Thistlecrack in the World Hurdle as Jessica Harrington's Jezki is ready to return at Leopardstown next week.

The 2014 Champion Hurdle winner hasn't been seen in a race since the memorable clash over three miles with Hurricane Fly at the 2015 Punchestown Festival and it is over the extended distance that his trainer is now focused on.

"Jezki is working away well and will go for the three-mile Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown," she said.

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