Thistlecrack for King George: Yay or Neigh?
Should Thistlecrack take his chance in the 32Red King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day? Our team have their say.
Thistlecrack: Should he run in the King George?
Should Thistlecrack run in the King George?
Ben Linfoot: I can't remember a more exciting novice chaser two months into his maiden campaign over fences than Thistlecrack. The way he swaggered through the staying hurdling division last season was a thing of beauty and his eagerly-anticipated switch to fences has brought three victories already – at odds of 1/6, 1/7 and 1/8. But this thing that he needs to be fast-tracked out of novice company because he's eight, turning nine – I don't get it. He's got two or three years in his prime still to come yet, there's no need to rush these things. Look at stablemate Cue Card, he's in his seventh year in training and looks as good as ever at 10, rising 11. The thing is, the King George is a very very tough race for a novice. They'll go hell for leather from the outset and it can be a gruelling three miles that sorts out the men from the boys. And it's pretty early in Thistlecrack's education for such an examination, even if you do get the feeling he's got the natural ability to take it in his stride. If he were mine, I'd run him in the Kauto Star. I'd see if Cue Card won the King George. I'd wait until he's had four or five runs over fences and then think about the Gold Cup. But the King George, after three runs, including one less-than-convincing jumping display at Cheltenham? It has to be a neigh.
VERDICT: NEIGH. There's no need to rush this awesome project.
Dave Ord: I'd be more tempted to say yay for the Cheltenham Gold Cup but for all the obvious abundant potential he has over fences – there would be no hiding place at Kempton on Boxing Day. His fencing would be put under pressure like never before and any semblance of a mistake ruthlessly punished in against the established stars. Better to continue the education with another couple of spins in against novices before connections decide whether to go for Gold in March with touch wood, an unblemished record, five career starts over fences and a confident chaser on their hands.
VERDICT: NEIGH. There would be no hiding place at Kempton.
Ian Ogg: In a word, yes (or should that be 'yay'?) If connections are serious about going for the Gold Cup then I think running in the King George would be an ideal preparation. Novice chases so often provide an inadequate test for the better horses that by the time they turn up for the spring festivals they've never seriously been challenged. In fairness to Ibis Du Rheu, he did try to ask Thistlecrack some questions on Saturday but Thistlecrack may not be asked anything more serious in the Feltham whereas the King George would really let connections know where they stood. The field could be smaller than usual this year with a number of contenders having already fallen by the wayside and I'd be tempted to treat it as a shot to nothing as Tom Scudamore could pull Thistlecrack up if he was struggling. There would still be time to go back to the drawing board if things didn't go to plan but if he did cope, connections could head to Cheltenham with confidence rather than in hope on the back of impressive performances in small fields against inferior opposition.
VERDICT: YAY. This is the perfect time to test the waters in open company.
Ben Coley: The King George has become a pretty brutal test of late and while I'm sure Thistlecrack could win it, Colin Tizzard would be wise to play the long game if he does want to run this horse in the Gold Cup. There's simply no place to hide in the King George – they go hard at it and in a perverse way the nature of Kempton, i.e. the fact that it is flat and reasonably tight, encourages a relentless gallop which has broken the hearts of many. Sending Thistlecrack to the Feltham would allow for another step in his education which he still needs, and it would also pave the way for Cue Card to win the main event. Tizzard may have in the back of his mind the fact that come Cheltenham, Cue Card will be 11 and horses of that age just don't win Gold Cups. So, let Cue Card have a penalty kick in the King George (there's no way I see them running Douvan in it and what else is there to beat CC?), then the Gold Cup can be seen as a bonus, one which Thistlecrack might just take away from him.
VERDICT: NEIGH. Thistlecrack needs another step in his chasing education yet.