CUE Card’s jockey Paddy Brennan believes Thistlecrack will need to be the best horse he has ever seen if he is to beat his stable companion in today’s 32Red King George VI Chase at Kempton.
The Colin Tizzard-trained pair have dominated the pre-race discussion ahead of the Boxing Day spectacular and this clash has echoes of memorable occasions when the Paul Nicholls pair of Kauto Star and Denman met in the Gold Cup.
Cue Card edged out the ill-fated Vautour in a thriller 12 months ago and looked better than ever when landing his third Betfair Chase at Haydock last month.
Thistlecrack, last season’s all-conquering staying hurdler, has won each of his three starts over fences with the minimum of fuss under Tom Scudamore, but while Brennan respects his opponent, he is in bullish mood.
Speaking in his 32Red blog, the jockey said: “If Cue Card runs up to his best and Thistlecrack still beats us in the King George, I will never have ridden against, or seen, a better horse. I genuinely believe that.
“That includes the likes of Kauto Star and Denman, who I know all too well from my Imperial Commander days. Okay, Thistlecrack may not have to run to the spell-binding level of form that Kauto Star did when winning one or two of his King Georges – though he may have to – but if Colin’s horse can come out best given his inexperience he will have to be one of the best we have seen in a long while.
“Cue Card has an official mark of 176, but I am sure his best performances can be rated higher and nearer 180, so it will be one hell of a feat from Thistlecrack if he can beat us if we are on our A-game.
“Racing can be a great leveller and if we are beaten then so be it. But I will be going out there on Boxing Day thinking I am on the best horse and not expecting defeat. I can’t wait.”
Cue Card was third on his seasonal reappearance in Wetherby’s Charlie Hall Chase, one place ahead of Blaklion, who heads the field for today’s 188Bet Rowland Meyrick Chase at the West Yorkshire track.
Since then, Blaklion ran with great gusto in Newbury’s Hennessy, suggesting that he, too, has the class – and scope – to develop into a live contender for the 2017 Gold Cup.
Though he has to carry top weight, trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies is bullish.
“Blaklion has been fine since Newbury and goes to Wetherby in good shape,” he said.
“He nearly won at Newbury and ran a great race. He has top weight, but surely this race won’t be quite as hot as the Hennessy.
“We know he runs well at Wetherby and he must have a very good chance.”
The main Yorkshire hopes rest with Brian Ellison’s Definitly Red, the mount of jockey Henry Brooke, and the gutsy Wakanda, from Sue Smith’s stable.
Though the latter has not won for a year, he does now have a more realistic handicap mark and the trainer believes the going will suit provided it is not “gluepot ground”.