Five possible chinks in Thistlecrack’s formidable armour

Thistlecrack: bidding to extend unbeaten run over fences on Saturday

PICTURE: Mark Cranham (racingpost.com/photos) It might not be all plain sailing for Thistlecrack
By James Burn 6:00PM 24 JAN 2017

CORAL and Ladbrokes were the first bookmakers to assess Thistlecrack's chances of taking his unbeaten run over fences to five in the BetBright Trial Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham on Saturday, making the brilliant nine-year-old a 1-2 shot.

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He is generally odds-on for the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup after his impressive success in the King George VI Chase at Kempton over Christmas and those prices will likely shorten further is he comes through his dress rehearsal unscathed.

At 1-2, that 'if' is not very big, but we assess what might derail Colin Tizzard's star on Saturday.

Jumping
Thistlecrack
can be like a jumbo jet taking off, but the one, big mistake he has made came when he left the ground way too early at Cheltenham in November and banked the fence. He learned quickly and was then fine in the King George, but connections have been keen for him to get some more Cheltenham experience hence why they're here.

Opposition
No Cue Card to worry about, even if Thistlecrack's stablemate was not at his best in the King George, but last year's Cotswold 1-2 Smad Place and Many Clouds lie in wait for John and Heather Snook's gelding. And in 2015 Grand National hero Many Clouds, Thistlecrack is due to meet a rival reckoned to be as good as ever.

Smad Place Cheltenham January 2016

Smad Place comes away with last year's Cotswold Chase

PICTURE: Getty Images

Stamina
Smad Place and Many Clouds have stamina in spades and with Silviniaco Conti among the Cotswold entries, the race could be a war of attrition. While Thistlecrack is a World Hurdle winner, some have questioned whether he was emptying at Kempton. That might, however, have just been Tom Scudamore showboating and easing down.

Stable form
The exploits of Thistlecrack will likely determine if Colin Tizzard can capture a first trainers' crown this term and the Dorset maestro has done little wrong so far this season, but things have not gone so smoothly recently. Tizzard has saddled only one winner – a 2-1 favourite – in the last two weeks and high-profile import Alary, spoken of as a Gold Cup horse, flopped in the Peter Marsh at Haydock on Saturday.

Fancy that
Another negative is no winning favourite has won the Cotswold Chase in the last nine years with Djakadam falling as a 5-6 chance 12 months ago. Thistlecrack, of course, doesn't read the stats and Team Tizzard were responsible for spoiling the party when Joe Lively struck at 11-1 in 2009.

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