2016 King George VI Chase: Cue Card v Thistlecrack is on as Tizzard stars tussle
David Metcalf | 20 December 2016
Cue Card v Thistlecrack in cracking King George VI Chase
Thistlecrack is now 6/4 second-favourite with Coral for the King George VI Chase after connections confirmed the plan was for him to take on stablemate Cue Card in the Boxing Day showpiece at Kempton.
The Colin Tizzard trained gelding was previously 5/2 for the 3m contest, as owners John and Heather Snook deliberated over whether to take on the big boys or run him in the Feltham Novices’ Chase at this Christmas race meeting.
But Mr Snook revealed on Somerset Live that Thistlecrack would line-up in the King George en route to a crack at the 2017 Cheltenham Gold Cup, for which he is currently 3/1 favourite.
He said: “It’s definitely the King George for Thistlecrack – it’s always been my intention to go that way provided the horse has been coping with jumping fences and we think he has.
“His win at Newbury on Hennessy day confirmed that – there was nothing wrong with that performance – and provided he’s 110 per cent on the day we’ll be in the King George.”
Trainer Colin Tizzard fully behind decision
Handler Tizzard has given his “full backing” to the decision and is happy to let his two superstars to battle.
Speaking on At The Races, he said: “We’ve been saying we’d leave a decision for as long as we could but felt it was only fair we told told people what we intended to do.
“The owners want to go for the King George and I’m full backing with it. Both sets of owners have sat down and talked about it. Both horses are in cracking form so should take their chance.”
Thistlecrack entitled to be clear favourite
It is a bold decision, but many feel Thistlecrack is up to the task and should be clear favourite for the race instead of last year’s winner Cue Card (11/8).
The eight-year-old was unbeaten in five starts last season. Those victories included a demolition job in the World Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival and an awesome display in the Liverpool Stayers’ Hurdle at Aintree where he won with consummate ease.
Those performances saw Cue Card rated 174 at the end of a stellar campaign, just 2lb lower than what Cue Card is currently rated over fences, and Thistlecrack has looked the real deal in winning all three of his starts over the larger obstacles this season.
Awesome display of speed and power
In the last of those he jumped terrifically to make all and cruise clear on the bridle to land a Grade 2 contest at Newbury by eight lengths.
It was an amazing display of speed and power and the front-running tactics clearly suited Thistlecrack, who has one of the biggest engines seen in a horse for a long, long time.
He appears to possess more speed than Cue Card and has the potential to be an even better chaser than a hurdler.
If allowed his own way up front I can’t see anything being good enough to go with him, let alone pick him up, once regular jockey and Coral Ambassador pushes the button and goes through the gears at the business end of affairs.
Cue Card not getting any younger
Cue Card obviously has by far the more experience over fences and is a real class act in his own right.
But as an 11-year-old he is not open to anywhere near the amount of improvement as Thistlecrack and the form of his latest win in the Betfair Chase at Haydock is questionable, given that the runner-up Coneygree was returning from a lengthy absence and the race somewhat fell apart.
However, Cue Card showed what he was made of in this race 12 months when getting up close home to collar the brilliant and ill-fated Vautour and looks sure to give it his best shot to retain his crown.
Outlander not to be underestimated
Further spice was also added to the King George with the news that leading Irish trainer Gordon Elliott was planning to send over Outlander for a crack at the prestigious prize.
The eight-year-old was a very useful novice chaser last season and ran a blinder last time out when keeping on well to finish a 1 1/4 length second to dual Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-up Djakadam.
That form entitles the Gigginstown House Stud owned gelding to plenty of respect in what is much more than just a two-horse race and Outlander is 12/1 (from 25s) to land the spoils.
Who do you think will come out on top in Cue Card v Thistlecrack? Or will another horse surprise them both in the King George VI Chase at Kempton? Have your say in the comments section below.