The star of tomorrow became the King for a day, as Thistlecrack stormed to a hugely impressive victory in the King George at Kempton.
It proved to be a dominant display from Colin Tizzard’s young chaser, despite concerns that the sharp track would prove less than ideal. In truth, the result never looked in doubt. Tom Scudamore sent Thistlecrack to the front from the off, and though he had company for the first circuit, he appeared capable of stretching clear whenever asked to do so. His jumping was assured throughout, and despite the step-up in class, he tanked along in his now customary superlative fashion.
Paddy Brennan moved Cue Card alongside his stablemate, in an attempt to apply some sort of pressure. But as the pair approached the home turn for the final time it was Thistlecrack that stepped on the gas and stretched clear. No more than nudged out by Scudamore, he was allowed to run down the last two fences, and still finished more than three lengths clear at the line. Cue Card held on to second spot in a blanket finish for minor honours.
Scudamore was clearly chuffed to bits with the stunning success, saying: “For the first time in my life I'm pretty speechless. It's wonderful - I thought he'd win, but I never imagined he'd do it as easy as that. He's a phenomenal racehorse, he's a pleasure to ride and a great credit to everyone. To win a King George on his fourth run over fences, it just shows the hard work everyone back at the yard has done and I'm so thrilled to be part of it.”
The decision to run Thistlecrack had surprised many, myself included. But Colin Tizzard had never doubted the exceptional talent, and spoke of the reasoning and of the pleasure in a plan coming to fruition, when saying: “He's not a five or six-year-old, he is eight and he'll be nine in a few days' time. He's at the peak of his powers and he's just proved we all got it right.”
The trainer went on: “It's quite frightening to watch, isn't it? We've all seen Thistlecrack for the last few years, he's had his biggest test and he's a brilliant horse. Tom was being a bit careful at the second-last and he shortened up almost like a show-jumper - he never touched a twig. He's got everything you'd want in a racehorse. Cue Card could have cried enough at the last, but he stuck his head out and finished second, so it's brilliant.”
Paddy Brennan was philosophical in defeat, when he said: “You want to win, but some things are impossible and trying to beat that racehorse today was one of the most impossible things I've ever tried to do. You can make all the excuses in the world, but it's a long time since I've ridden against a horse like that. Cue Card was really brave today and I'm proud of him. The ground was lively enough for him at times.”
Looking ahead to Cheltenham, he added: “It would be nice, but I'm very realistic and we'd need a lot of things to go right on the day. But on a bit softer ground, I won't give up hope.”
Unfortunately for Cue Card and the rest, ground conditions appear to have little effect on this sensational racehorse. And the way he trounced the opposition in last year’s World Hurdle suggests he’ll actually be better suited by Cheltenham. A practice spin in the Cotswold Chase at the end of January now appears likely. King for a day at Kempton, chances are that Thistlecrack will reign for some time to come.