By David Baxter 3:46PM 25 OCT 2016
THISTLECRACK made his highly-anticipated chase debut at Chepstow on Thursday and the reigning World Hurdle champion did not disappoint with a fluent display and several eyecatching leaps.
Unbeaten last season in five starts, the clamour for the eight-year-old to switch from hurdles to fences began a few seconds after he crossed the line at the Cheltenham Festival back in March and he showed plenty of aptitude for his new discipline as he sauntered to a four length win.
Coneygree showed that novice chasers can win the festival highlight when triumphing in 2015, and Thistlecrack, who started Tuesday as a 6-1 favourite for the Gold Cup, is now as short as 4-1 off the back of his Chepstow victory.
Trainer Colin Tizzard said: “It was a beautiful performance.”
Next up is likely to be a trip to Cheltenham for the Open meeting, Tizzard said.
“If we’re going to go the Gold Cup then we need to know he jumps round Cheltenham. The plan was two novice chases then the Feltham at Kempton.
“He needs another novice, but he’s not a five-year-old, he’s had plenty of hurdle races. After that [Cheltenham] I think you could do what you wanted.”
It was hard to find fault with Thistlecrack’s chasing debut, as he jumped with the kind of nous associated with seasoned handicappers.
Having met several of his fences on a great stride, he got in tight on a couple of occasions, notably at the fifth-last, but effortlessly corrected his stride to clear the obstacle cleverly.
At the next fence he really stood off and cleared it in tremendous style, and when runner-up Aqalim came to challenge before the last he quickly burnt off that rival without coming off the bridle.