Thistlecrack was able to make a winning start to his chase career earlier this week with a win at Chepstow to remain on course for a tilt at the Cheltenham Gold Cup later this season. The World Hurdle winner from the 2016 Cheltenham Festival scored by four lengths in the novices’ chase in a smooth round of jumping.
Thistelecrack currently tops the Cheltenham Gold Cup betting with Bet365 at 5/1 following his Chepstow success.
Although Colin Tizzard’s runner is likely to run in the Gold Cup if his preparation goes to plan this season, he is also in the betting at 5/1 for the RSA Chase which is the natural route for a chaser after his hurdle campaign. That decision is likely to be made much closer to March when the final declarations for the two Championship races are submitted.
Another Cheltenham Gold contender, Cue Card, made his seasonal reappearance at the weekend. The 10-year-old was attempting to defend his crown in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby, the race he won 12 months ago by just under four lengths when going off at 11/4 in the betting. This time around he was odds-on at 8-11, however, he had to settle for third place in Yorkshire.
Cue Card was travelling well in the 3m contest; however, he faded inside the final furlong as he could not keep up with the winner Irish Cavalier and Menorah who finished second in a close-run race.
Connections will be hoping Cue Card will come on for his Wetherby run when he appears in the Betfair Chase at Haydock next month. That race brings up the first leg of the Triple Crown for Chasers. If any horse wins the Betfair Chase, King George VI Chase and Cheltenham Gold Cup in the same season, they will earn their owners a £1 million bonus. Tizzard’s runner went so close to claiming that prize last season as he was successful at Haydock and Kempton, before falling in the Gold Cup, in the race won by Don Cossack.
Last year’s Gold Cup winner Don Cossack won’t return to the racecourse until January at the very earliest as he is still recovering from an injury setback. That could leave the door open for Thistlecrack or Cue Card to add their name to the Gold Cup roll of honor this season.