Can Thistlecrack secure history at the King George IV Chase?
Thistlecrack is battling to defend his crown at the King George IV Chase at Kempton Park on Boxing Day. The nine-year-old has been ruled out of action since January after suffering a tendon injury. However, Colin Tizzard’s charge is gearing up for a return to action in a bid to join the elite company of horses that have won the race on multiple occasions. The bay gelding suffered his injury at the Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham, finishing second in the meet behind Many Clouds.
Before the race, Thistlecrack has reeled off nine wins on the bounce, including his triumph over reigning champion Cue Card at the King George IV Chase. Even though the horse has not been in action since the first month of 2017, the nine-year-old is still backed at 7/2 in the latest horse racing betting odds to win the event, although he will need a strong performance to see off a talented field. Fox Norton, Douvan and Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Sizing John may also battle for the crown.
However, the biggest threat for the bay gelding could be the winner of the Future Stars Intermediate Chase, Might Bite. Nicky Henderson’s charge has won his last four races, including triumphs in the RSA Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham Festival along with the Mildmay Novices’ Chase. His last performance in the Future Stars Intermediate Chase at Sandown Park sent out a signal to the rest of the field as he claimed a dominant victory by eight lengths. If the Irish horse produces that level of display at Kempton Park, Thistlecrack will have his work cut out to defend his crown.
At the peak of his powers, there are not many competitors in the field that can match Tizzard’s charge over a three-mile distance. Since moving beyond the 20-furlong distance, the nine-year-old has only failed to win only twice in 12 races. On the two occasions he did not triumph, Thistlecrack finished second – in the previously mentioned Cotswold Chase and the Novice Hurdle at Punchestown.
The horse seems to relish the big occasion with Tom Scudamore in the saddle, the bay gelding has delivered comfortable victories at Cheltenham Festival in the World Hurdle, winning the event by seven lengths. Thistlecrack had a major challenge on his hand to defeat Cue Card at Kempton Park last season. Although he was considered the favourite ahead of his stable-mate, but nine-year-old had the endurance down the stretch to see out the win by three-and-a-half lengths.
His injury may have affected his stamina down the stretch, which could allow his rivals to capitalise. Tizzard has a lot of work ahead of him to ensure that the bay gelding is fit and raring to go for the contest. Ten horses have strung back-to-back victories at the meet, with the last being Silviniaco Conti and his two triumphs between 2013 and 2014. History is awaiting for Thistlecrack and should he find his rhythm before the event it would be extremely hard to look past him to secure the win.