Champion jockey Richard Johnson has praised Thistlecrack’s jumping
PICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)
By Mark Scully 8:00PM 28 NOV 2016
RICHARD JOHNSON believes there is not a better jumper in training than Thistlecrack right now, but has warned he may not have things all his own way in the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup, like he has on his three chase starts to date.
Thistlecrack made it a perfect three-from-three over the larger obstacles with a comprehensive Grade 2 success at Newbury on Saturday, leading some bookmakers to shorten his price for March’s Gold Cup, for which he is now as short as 5-2.
Johnson, who partnered the 2015 Gold Cup hero Coneygree to a fine comeback second to Cue Card in the Betfair Chase earlier this month, could hardly have been more impressed with what he has seen from last season’s World Hurdle winner over fences so far.
“Based on pure ability and talent, I think Thistlecrack is the best jumper in training at the moment,” said Johnson in his Betway blog.
“He was very good on Saturday and I think he is still learning. At the moment he’s having it all his own way, though, and whether he can quite do it in a Gold Cup we don’t know.”
Praise for Tizzard
Johnson also assessed the combined might of Thistlecrack’s trainer Colin Tizzard when it comes to the staying chase ranks, with both Cue Card and Native River, ridden to Hennessy Gold Cup success by Johnson on Saturday, also poised to have a big impact as the season progresses.
“Colin Tizzard now has Native River, Cue Card and Thistlecrack in the Gold Cup picture and it’s very hard to split them,” said the champion jockey.
“The Tizzard team has an embarrassment of riches at the moment and it’s great that they aren’t looking to hide them away and wrap them up.
“Colin has always said that when they are fit, healthy and well he will run them. Hopefully we will see plenty more of them this year and I think that’s great for everybody.”
On where Native River could fit in the pecking order, Johnson added: “We all know he would have to improve to win a Gold Cup, but he definitely warrants respect at the top level right now.
“He may have to go for a conditions race next depending on how the handicapper treats his win. Maybe the Cotswold Chase on Trials Day at Cheltenham could be a target, but the Tizzard team will know better than I do.
“The Gold Cup is about jumping and staying and that’s what he does best. There are much worse bets than having a few quid each way on him for the Gold Cup.”