Thistlecrack: one of the stars of the 2015-16 National Hunt season
PICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com
By Graham Dench & Dale Jennings 8:00PM 1 SEP 2016
COLIN TIZZARD could saddle as many as three runners in the Betfred Gold Cup at Cheltenham March, with the thrilling prospect of last season’s stunning World Hurdle winner Thistlecrack heading a trio that also includes Cue Card and Native River.
However, news of the current wearer of the Gold Cup crown Don Cossack is less upbeat, with Gigginstown racing manager Eddie O’Leary saying on Thursday: “If I’m being honest, I doubt we’ll make it.” Trainer Gordon Elliott, though, is less pessimistic.
Thistlecrack is favourite in all lists for the RSA Chase at as short as 3-1, but is outright market leader at 6-1 with Ladbrokes and Sky Bet for the Gold Cup and that is his main target for the season, assuming he can prove himself over fences.
He is also favourite or co-favourite for a World Hurdle repeat after last season’s defeat of Alpha Des Obeaux matched the highest figures of four-time winner Big Buck’s with a Racing Post Rating of 178 and an official rating of 174. His chasing debut has been earmarked for Chepstow on October 8 in the race in which Cue Card made a successful chasing debut in 2011.
While Thistlecrack is clearly in fine shape, the beginning of the treacherous return journey to Cheltenham for Don Cossack has at least gone smoothly, according to Elliott, who confirmed the nine-year-old is back doing road work.
However, O’Leary, more pessimistic than optimistic about the nine-year-old returning to his best, said: “He has a long, long road ahead of him and, if I’m being honest, I doubt we’ll make it. That’s not to say everything has not gone smoothly so far – it has – but I’m a big believer in expecting the worst. That way you’re pleasantly surprised if things work out,”
He added: “Don Cossack is doing road work at the moment, but he has a long way to go. If he doesn’t make it back to the track this season then he will be retired. We’ll not be persevering with him. He owes us nothing.”
Read more on Don Cossack and Thistlecrack in Friday’s Racing Post, available on iPad now