Cheltenham: Some hairy jumps but Thistlecrack wins

Thistlecrack and Tom Scudamore soar over one of the Cheltenham fences

PICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos) Some hairy jumps but Thistlecrack all class By Peter Scargill 1:23PM 12 NOV 2016

Report: Cheltenham, Saturday

Mallardjewellers.com Novices' Chase 3m, 5yo+

IT STARTED as a horse race and ended as a victory parade as Thistlecrack kicked his rivals – and the odd fence – out of his way en route to what was ultimately a classy win.

Exuberant, powerful and oozing quality, Thistlecrack showed many of the qualities you would want in a Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup favourite.

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What he will have to do is tone down his bravery, as bold leaps at three of the four open ditches led to some hairy moments, especially at the fifth fence when he took off miles before the obstacle and dragged his legs badly through the fence.

He remained unchanged at 7-2 favourite for the Gold Cup with Paddy Power and 6-1 for the King George with sponsors 32Red.

Trainer and jockey reaction

Tom Scudamore said: "The further he went the better he started to jump. I'm sure he'll improve for the experience. I let him do his own thing. He stood off one too far early on but he's very intelligent and didn't again."

Trainer Colin Tizzard admitted there is more to learn about Thistlecrack, who has reportedly not schooled between Chepstow and Cheltenham.

"We're on a learning curve, aren't we," said Tizzard with a smile on his face. "He was a bit exuberant today but he was stuck in second gear. On the second circuit when Tom pushed on he definitely got better."

A trip to Newbury for the Hennessy meeting at the end of the month is the next aim for Thistlecrack, with the Cheltenham Gold Cup – rather than the King George – at the top of their thinking.

He said: "I think he needs another run at the Hennessy meeting. If we're going to go big after Christmas he definitely needs more experience. I'd love it if ten horses turned up at Newbury.

"He needs another run and then we'll see where we go at Christmas."

Under the microscope

Rarely can a horse priced at 1-7 have been watched with such scrutiny, as every racing fan and professional waited to see what Colin Tizzard's brilliant World Hurdle winner would do on his second start over fences.

His chasing debut at Chepstow was flawless. He was bold, effortless and powered through like he had bottomless supplies of energy. He exhibited many of the same qualities again at Cheltenham.

Irish raider Marinero pressed and then passed Thistlecrack early on and Tom Scudamore was content to sit just behind the leader for the first circuit. The first four fences passed without drama.

At the fifth, Thistlecrack produced a mighty leap but took off from far to far away from the fence and dragged his hind legs through the obstacle to gasps from onlookers. He repeated the trick at the next open ditch as well.

It almost seemed like he was testing himself, seeing how far away he could leap from and still get over to the other side. However, as the runners headed out on the second circuit, it was time for business.

Far too good

Scudamore and Thistlecrack surged clear, again producing huge but slightly risky jumps at the open ditches. At full flow he was a magnificent sight to behold.

The gallant Marinero crept closer between three out and two out and jockey Barry Geraghty perhaps sensed a small chance for an upset. If he did, he was very wrong.

Rounding the bend and into the straight Scudamore ensured Thistlecrack jumped proficiently and accurately and he was allowed to coast up the hill to rapturous applause from the crowd.

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