Horses To Follow » Thistlecrack


Thistlecrack put up a really impressive performance to land the Sefton Hurdle at Aintree on Friday.

Settled towards the rear of the field through the early stages of the race by Tom Scudamore, he made nice progress down the back straight and he moved up nicely in behind Alpha Des Obeaux, who had gone for home, at the top of the home straight. Alpha Des Obeaux is a highly talented novice hurdler, and his stamina for three miles was proven, whereas Thistlecrack’s was not, but quickly it became apparent that the Colin Tizzard horse was travelling better. He was about a half a length up at the final flight, with the pair of them clear and, while the Mouse Morris horse took a crashing fall at that obstacle (thankfully he was okay), it is probable that, all things being equal, Thistlecrack still would have won.

His rider was not hard on the winner on the run-in, he was 15 lengths clear, so he just rode him out hands and heels, and he eased up with about 100 yards to run to post a really impressive victory, 13 lengths clear of Vyta Du Roc, who probably would have finished second in the Neptune Hurdle at Cheltenham had he not tried to made a really bad mistake at the final flight. Also, the winning time was good, despite the fact that the winner recorded a facile victory, faster than Racing Post par and the fastest of the four races that were run on the hurdles course on the day.

This was probably the best performance of Thistlecrack’s career by some way, and it may not be a coincidence that it was in a race run over the longest distance over which he has ever competed. Winner of a bumper last season, he made his debut this term in a bumper at Ascot in December, but he has progressed with each of his runs over hurdles now. He was the beneficiary of an astute piece of riding from Ruby Walsh when he won a Class 2 novices’ hurdle over two miles at Ascot in February, but he was probably the best horse in the race anyway. On his only run between then and last Friday, he ran really well to finish a close-up fifth in the Imperial Cup at Sandown, racing off a mark of 135.

He had disappointed on his only previous attempt at a distance in excess of two miles, in a two-and-a-half-mile novices’ hurdle at Cheltenham in January behind Ordo Ab Chao, Value At Risk and Vago Collonges, but the ground was very soft that day, and the sedate early pace did not play to his strengths. By Kayf Tara out of an Ardross mare, a staying chaser from a staying family, he was worth a try at three miles and, although his stamina was not proven before Friday, he obviously thrived on the extra premium that the distance placed on stamina.

Colin Tizzard has lots of options with him now. He could remain over hurdles and go down the World Hurdle route next season. He could progress to be that good. That is a division that is lacking a real star at present. The handicapper raised him 18lb to a mark of 153 for Friday’s run, so that puts him in the ballpark.

Alternatively, he could go down the novice chasing route. That may be the preferred option now as, a seven-year-old, he is bred for chasing and it is probably time to go over fences now. Whichever route his trainer chooses, he is an exciting prospect for next season. In the interim, he will be of interest if he takes his chance in the Grade 1 three-mile novices’ hurdle at the Punchestown Festival.

10th April 2015