Thistlecrack has been given the go-ahead to tackle stable companion Cue Card in the 32Red King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day.
Trainer Colin Tizzard has been considering whether to let his star novice take on the best chasers around having won his first three races with the minimum of fuss.
The decision was ultimately left to owners John and Heather Snook, who confirmed they have always had the Christmas showpiece in their minds before 2015 Gold Cup winner Coneygree was withdrawn following a poor piece of work.
“It’s definitely the King George for Thistlecrack – it’s always been my intention to go that way provided the horse has been coping with jumping fences and we think he has,” said John Snook.
“His win at Newbury on Hennessy day confirmed that – there was nothing wrong with that performance – and provided he’s 110 per cent on the day, we’ll be in the King George.”
Tizzard, who has had a tremendous first half of the season, will be bidding for back-to-back wins after Cue Card’s last-gasp success 12 months ago.
He added: “It’s John and Heather’s horse and as owners they have the right to say where he is going to run.
“We’d been saying for the last three weeks that we were going to leave the decision as long as we could, but we thought it was only fair that we told people what we intended to do.
“The owners want to go for the King George and I’m in full backing with it (the decision).
“Cue Card’s owners have sat down with Thistlecrack’s owners and they are both in agreement the King George is a once-in-a-lifetime race and both horses are in cracking form, so they should take their chance.
“Thistlecrack is eight coming nine, we know he can gallop and win a World Hurdle. He’s had three chases and last time his jumping was immaculate.
“Do we need to wait another year before we try to win a King George with him? The owners had the final say and they wanted to go; I fully support it.
“It would have been easier if Cue Card wasn’t in it, but he is and he’s in very good form so they can both go.”
Thistlecrack is not the only new addition to the King George frame as Gordon Elliott has also confirmed Outlander is under serious consideration for the race.
Meanwhile, Elliott is eyeing the Red Mills Chase at Gowran in February as a possible starting point for last season’s Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Don Cossack.
The nine-year-old suffered a tendon injury while being prepared to run at Punchestown in April, but Elliott reports him to be making steady progress in his recovery.
Elliott is keen to give Don Cossack a relatively low-key return, with the Grade Two event at Gowran one of his preferred options. He said: “I couldn’t be happier with him. He’s had 16 weeks cantering done now.
“Gerry Kelly, the vet, came to the yard the other day and felt his legs and said he couldn’t be happier with him, so we’ll keep our fingers crossed.”
All-weather veteran General Tufto will break new ground today when making his 100th appearance at just one racecourse – Southwell.
Trained in Lincolnshire by Charles Smith, the 11-year-old has had a total of 187 races in a career going way back to September 2007.
The son of Fantastic Light has won 16 races, 14 of them at Southwell. His first success was in February 2009, but it is nearly two years since he graced the winner’s enclosure. Owned locally by John Theaker, General Tufto will be ridden by Leyburn-based Joey Haynes, who has steered him to victory in his last four wins at Southwell, in division one of the one-mile handicap.