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Is Thistlecrack a worthy ante post favourite for the Cheltenham Gold Cup?

David Metcalf | 6 December 2016

Thistlecrack favourite for Gold Cup after sensational chasing debut

Thistlecrack is currently 4/1 favourite in the ante post betting with Coral for next year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup after making a stunning winning debut over fences, but is he a worthy favourite for chasing’s blue riband contest following just one race over the larger obstacles?

The Colin Tizzard trained eight-year-old Thistlecrack put in a faultless display of jumping when strolling to a facile four length success over Aqalim in the Aspen Waite Complete Business Growth Service Novices’ Chase at Chepstow.

Regular jockey Tom Scudamore set out to make all the running and Thistlecrack cruised along throughout and put in some exuberant leaps.

After being steadied and joined briefly between the last two fences, the son Kayf Tara pinged the last and Scu only had to let out of notch of reign to allow him to scoot clear and win hard held.

Colin Tizzard's Thistlecrack currently tops the 2017 Cheltenham Gold Cup odds.

Colin Tizzard’s Thistlecrack currently tops the 2017 Cheltenham Gold Cup odds.

Superb performance from a “phenomenal” horse

Thistlecrack could simply not have been any more impressive and it was a performance which suggested he could make up into as good a chaser as he was a hurdler.

I know that is a bold statement after just one run over fences against inferior opposition, especially when considering the heights he scaled over the smaller obstacles last season, but the reaction from the winning jockey after the race spoke volumes.

Coral Ambassador Scuadmore said: “Every horse is different, they are all individuals but he’s a mighty one. He can do things other horses can’t even dream of. He’s phenomenal and it’s tremendous to be associated with him.”

Thistlecrack’s next intended run is at the three-day Open meeting at Cheltenham next month and that will be a tougher race which reveal much more.

Coral racing ambassador Tom Scudamore has praised Thistlecrack (both pictured) as a "phenomenal" horse.

Coral racing ambassador Tom Scudamore has praised Thistlecrack (both pictured) as a “phenomenal” horse.

Hurdles rating reveals potential to go to the very top

However, it’s worth taking a close look at what he achieved over hurdles last season and regards to the heights he could scale over fences if things go to plan.

Thistlecrack was unbeaten in five starts and those victories included a demolition job in the World Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival where surged clear on the run to the last and stormed up the hill to record an effortless seven-length victory.

It was the most breathtaking win in the race I have ever seen and Thistlecrack went on to round off the campaign with a similar awesome display in the Liverpool Stayers’ Hurdle at Aintree.

He was rated 174 at the end of what had been a stellar season and had owners John and Heather Snook decided to stick to hurdles he could have reigned supreme in staying contests for years to come.

Potential to go to the very top

However, connections made it clear that he would go chasing this season with the Gold Cup as the ultimate aim and if able to achieve anything near his hurdles’ rating then Thistlecrack has the potential to go to the very top.

Thistlecrack won the World Hurdle last time out at Cheltenham.

Thistlecrack won the World Hurdle last time out at Cheltenham.

To put it into context, last year’s Gold Cup winner Don Cossack was rated 175 when landing the Cheltenham showpiece event. Runner-up Djakadam was rated 170 and the third home Don Poli 166.

So if Thistlecrack can achieve the same level of form over fences that he did over hurdles then his Gold Cup claims are obvious.

Perfect combination of high cruising speed and potent turn of foot

Yes, he is only a novice and they don’t have a good record in the race with Conyegree becoming the first to win in 41 years when landing the spoils in 2015.

But Thistlecrack is built to be a chaser, has the perfect combination of a high cruising speed and potent turn of foot, and is undoubtedly a class act and hugely exciting prospect.

To my eyes he looks the perfect candidate for Gold Cup honours and even after just one start over fences is justifiably favourite for the 3m 2f contest given his untapped potential.

If all does go to plan, Thistlecrack will be much shorter in the betting when the tapes go up next March.

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