Thistlecrack overcame a couple of hairy moments to easily maintain his unbeaten record over fences in the mallardjewellers.com Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham.
Last season’s champion staying hurdler took off too early at a couple of open ditches, but soon recovered and won in convincing style.
Irish challenger Marinero made the early running but Tom Scudamore decided to take Colin Tizzard’s extremely talented performer to the front with a circuit left.
From then on Thistlecrack’s overall jumping improved and though Marinero closed the gap briefly, the issue was never in doubt.
The 1-7 shot won as he liked by three and three-quarter lengths.
Tizzard said: “Everyone is going to scrutinise his jumping, because he is such a big, powerful horse who gallops so well, there’s nothing else to talk about.
“He has tremendous scope and it’s nice to get another run under his belt – he’s getting experience of jumping round against lesser opposition, but has he learnt anything today?
“I was glad when Tom went on (as the second circuit approached) because he was better going a bit faster.”
Thistlecrack will stick to the novice route for his next race, which could be at Newbury’s Hennessy meeting.
“I would say he will stay as a novice for now – he might have another run at the end of the month, possibly at the Hennessy meeting,” said Tizzard.
“He’s not the finished article and I can’t see any point in staying in his stable for the next six weeks. I’d like him to take on more rivals, but people won’t take us on. The King George is a very hot race, a ‘yeehaa’ all the way round as we’ve seen in the past. It’s one of the toughest races you can imagine.
“If we’re going big after Christmas, he needs to get more experience - he has such a big engine he won’t have given himself a hard race today. At the moment, he’s a novice chaser and so we’ll have another run and then decide his next target.”
Paddy Power left Thistlecrack unchanged as 7-2 favourite for the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Viconte Du Noyer (20-1) won a dramatic race for the BetVictor Handicap Chase to complete a quick double for the Tizzard stable.
Le Reve, who unseated Nico de Boinville at the second fence when sharing the lead with Shotgun Paddy, caused mayhem at the fence in front of the stands.
He went straight across the obstacle, causing a pile-up with the well-fancied Cogry, Racing Pulse and Midnight Prayer the casualties, as Harry Cobden brought Viconte Du Noyer with a strong run to claim the spoils by a length from Warrantor.