TOM SCUDAMORE believes Ryanair World Hurdle winner Thistlecrack’s potential is limitless after it was confirmed that the Cheltenham Festival hero is to go novice chasing next season.
Trainer Colin Tizzard’s son Joe confirmed that the lightly-raced eight-year-old, who has won all four starts this season, will tackle larger obstacles because the ultimate dream is to win the Gold Cup.
The decision will certainly find favour with Scudamore, who was recording the biggest win of his career when Thistlecrack sprinted clear on Thursday to win the three-mile hurdle by seven lengths in one of the defining performances of the 2016 National Hunt Festival.
Scudamore’s ninth Festival win, the 33-year-old also described how he is now accustomed to dealing with the pressure of expectation – whether it be living up to the legacy created by his late grandfather Michael, and multiple champion jockey father Peter, or riding a hot favourite in a big race.
Despite being in the shadow of the now retired AP McCoy for so long, the likable rider has won a total of seven races at the last three Festivals and shows the tactical awareness that saw the great Ruby Walsh take his record of Cheltenham triumphs past the half-century mark this week.
“I was very calm before the race. I am older and wiser and you think these things will never happen,” said the jockey, who only came in for the ride on Thistlecrack at Aintree last year when his weighing room rival Aidan Coleman snubbed the future champion.
“I spent my whole life running around in these races, whether it be the Gold Cup, Champion Chase, Champion Hurdle, and now I finally have a horse like this. It is unbelievable. I never realised it would be so easy.
“I knew sitting there during the race how well I was travelling. All the way through the race he was travelling well and took me into the race nicely and jumped superbly. That was a thrill of a lifetime. I have always held him in high regard. Colin and Joe Tizzard have done a wonderful job in getting him here in this form.
“He has improved with every run. I was always very confident. It was all about getting him in the right positions and, once we jumped the last, it was fantastic. What a racehorse.
“He jumps because he is a proper horse; I am able to travel and use him all the way through. If you enjoy watching it, you enjoy riding him. I have ridden some very good horses like The Giant Bolster and Grands Crus, but he is the best. How he looked was how it felt, it was a wonderful thrill.
“To be able to ride a horse like that, it was very special. I have never ridden anything like him.
“They were going fast enough in a championship race and, at the top of the hill, there was only three in it and then very quickly there was only one in it. He’s just outstanding.”
Scudamore, whose father Peter won 13 Festival races, was also full of praise for the Tizzard team.
The jockey, who recently rode his 1,000th winner, added: “Thistlecrack had one run at six, a few more last season, so Colin has done a fantastic job and absolute wonders with him. I am just the bloke who does the steering.”
Steeplechasing superstar Sprinter Sacre is unlikely to race again this season after completing one of the great racing comebacks by landing the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase.
Trainer Nicky Henderson told The Yorkshire Post that Sandown’s season-ending Celebration Chase on April 23 was the only possible target, but that he would need a lot of convincing. “There would be nothing to gain and everything to lose,” he said.
Meanwhile Henderson’s 2010 Gold Cup hero long Run, now trained by owner Robert Waley-Cohen, reappears in a hunter chase at Carlisle tomorrow following a long injury absence. #
The performance will determine whether Long Run, a one-time rival to Kauto Star and Denman, lines up in the Grand National.