Thistlecrack remains in King George mix
Thistlecrack remains a possible for the 32Red King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day as 21 go forward at the latest entry stage.
Thistlecrack: Still in the King George
The 2016 World Hurdle winner stretched his unbeaten record over fences to three with his most foot-perfect jumping display to date at Newbury's Hennessey meeting.
However, standing in his way is brilliant stablemate Cue Card. Following his brilliant 15- length-victory in the Betfair Chase, last year's winner will attempt to win the £200,000 Grade 1 contest for the second consecutive year as connections set their sights, once again, on the £1 million Jockey Club triple crown bonus.
Colin Tizzard, trainer of Cue Card and Thistlecrack, saidd: "Cue Card ran right up to his very best ability at Haydock a couple of weeks ago and we look forward to taking him to Kempton Park for the 32Red King George, a race that he won last year.
"He looks as well as ever at home and whether it is heavy ground or good ground I don't think it will make much difference.
"Thistlecrack is a brilliant young horse. If he was six-years-old there is no doubt that we would go down the novice route but he is not, he is eight-going-on-nine, and we will make a decision over the next couple of weeks.''
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Having missed almost all of last season through injury, Coneygree made a fine comeback to finish second behind Cue Card in the Betfair Chase at Haydock earlier this month. The Mark Bradstock trained nine-year-old, who won the 2015 Cheltenham Gold cup as a novice, is sure to improve for the run.
Boasting nine wins, Paul Nicholls holds the leading trainer record for the King George, five of which came with Kauto Star. Seven-time Grade One winner and dual-winner of the race, Silviniaco Conti is one of two left in by Nicholls. The Champion trainer has also left in 2015 Queen Mother Champion Chase winner Dodging Bullets.
Willie Mullins' hopes lie with unbeaten Arkle winner Douvan and the versatile OLBG Mares' Hurdle winner, Vroum Vroum Mag.
Gordon Elliott's challenge for a first King George comes from Don Poli, Outlander and Roi des Francs for owner Michael O'Leary.
Henry De Bromhead is another Irish trainer to have three entries left in the race. Valseur Lido made a fantastic start to the season winning the Grade 1 JNwine.com Champion Chase at Down Royal, beating runner-up Silviniaco Conti by eleven lengths. De Bromhead also has Champagne West and Sub Lieutenant remaining in the race.
This year's renewal also marks 10 years since Kauto Star's first victory in the King George VI Chase, which he went on to win a record five times (2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2011).
Tony Calvin, representing the sponsors 32Red, said: "It is obviously great news that all of the big guns have stood their ground and fingers crossed most, if not all, get to the starting line on Boxing Day.
"Last year's winner Cue Card is obviously the one to beat after his Haydock stroll under 32Red ambassador Paddy Brennan but the main danger could yet emerge from the horse closest to home in the shape of his outstanding stablemate Thistlecrack.
"32Red offer the best price about the market-leaders, with Cue Card available at 13-8."
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