He hasn’t run a bad race in any of his five chase starts, and we obviously got lucky last time when we won the 32Red Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day. We were booked for a distant second to Might Bite when that one fell at the last, and the only downside to winning that valuable Grade 1 prize was that the handicapper put us up 12lb. That seems pretty harsh to me considering we were going to be beaten the best part of a distance and Might Bite was only put up 4lb to a mark of 152. But we will take going up 12lb for winning £40k and a Grade 1 prize all day long, I suppose. The rise does make it a lot harder for him against some similarly progressive rivals here – and he does stay 3m well, so the step down in trip probably isn’t ideal – but he had some fair horses behind him at Kempton and he looks to be progressing. The first-time blinkers seemed to help sharpen his jumping last time too, so let’s see how we go here.
Realistically, we are only playing for the minor places if the big guns deliver but there is over £5,000 prize money for fourth and that isn’t to be sniffed at. And he comes here on the back of a career-best when just touched off by Theatre Guide when tried in first-time cheekpieces over 3m2f here last time. His mark of 150 tells you all you need to know about the task he faces here and, like most, I expect to see Thistlecrack to continue his chasing education with another win here. To do what he did to Cue Card on only his fourth chase start in the 32Red King George at Kempton was something else. He could be the best we have seen in a long while.
He won his bumper here and we thought that that step up to this trip would really suit him last time. He duly improved to finish third there and ran well, and we pulled 6 lengths clear of Pinghsou in fourth. And he actually rapped the first hurdle pretty hard there, which didn’t help him at all. I think this is a horse who will continue to progress as he gains experience and he gets weight all round here as he hasn’t won a hurdle yet. I think he has a good each-way chance in what is obviously a very strong race.
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