THISTLECRACK is set to take top billing in next month’s bet365 Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby – the feature race of the year at the West Yorkshire track.
It comes as trainer Colin Tizzard and his son Joe finalise their plans for their triumvirate of stable stars.
The country’s champion staying hurdler in 2016, Thistlecrack then became the first novice to win Kempton’s King George VI Chase under regular rider Tom Scudamore.
However the lightly-raced 10-year-old – a real crowd-pleaser with his flamboyant jumping – has subsequently suffered a number of injury setbacks.
Thistlecrack has not raced since finishing a brave fourth in last year’s King George, but the Tizzard team have not lost faith in the horse ahead of the Charlie Hall on November 3.
And Tizzard junior was upbeat after a schooling session yesterday. “Thistlecrack had a school this morning. Tom Scu schooled him. He’s been back in quite a while, and the plan is to to take him to the Charlie Hall,” he said.
“He’s in lovely form, probably the best form he’s been in for six months.”
The Tizzards will be hoping for better luck than the 2017 Charlie Hall Chase when Cue Card, subsequently retired, was a heavy faller at the fifth last fence.
Meanwhile, Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Native River will reappear in Haydock’s Betfair Chase on November 24.
If victorious, he’ll attempt to win the £1m bonus that will be paid out if the winner of this race also goes on to land the King George and Gold Cup.
“Native River will go straight to Haydock. He’s galloping away and looks an absolute picture,” reported Tizzard junior
“The Million is the sort of plan. Those horses, the routes get mapped out for them – Haydock, then the King George and the Gold Cup. That’s three obvious targets, and they’re spaced out lovely.”
Tizzard revealed the yard is sorely tempted to send last season’s Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle winner Kilbricken Storm novice chasing this term rather than target the Stayers’ Hurdle.
The victory was the biggest in the burgeoning career of teenage jockey Harry Cobden who is back in the saddle after a summer on the sidelines with a serious neck injury following a fall.
Cobden schooled Kilbricken Storm yesterday. “Harry schooled him first time over fences for us this morning. He jumped super,” added Tizzard.
“He’s actually filled out a lot over the summer and he looks magnificent. I’m really excited about him.
“We haven’t really pencilled in where we are going to start with him. It will probably be the end of this month or beginning of November we’ll start with him.
“We’ve had a few debates about whether we’re going to leave him for a Stayers’ Hurdle or go novice chasing, but he jumped a fence super this morning. I’d imagine that’s where we’ll go.
“Dad and I couldn’t contain ourselves. You never know – he could be even better over a fence. He did jump lovely for the first time this morning.”
Bryan Smart is to campaign Alpha Delphini solely on home soil next season after an unsuccessful first trip abroad for the Prix de l’Abbaye at ParisLongchamp on Sunday.
The Hambleton trainer has ruled out any more foreign trips for his Nunthorpe Stakes hero who finished in the ruck and four lengths behind the winner, Mabs Cross.
However, Smart was pleased that it was Mabs Cross who landed the five-furlong feature, as she was the horse Alpha Delphini had pipped in a thrilling race for York’s Group One dash in August.
“He’s finished for the season now. He didn’t travel or cope with it, being away,” said Smart.
“If a horse doesn’t take to it you know he’s not going to run to his best, but we’ve done it and we won’t be doing it again, so we look forward to next season.
“She (Mabs Cross) upheld the form for the race (Nunthorpe). He’s still the same horse. He just didn’t cope with the travelling.
“We’ll be staying in this country.”
Pretty Pollyanna will face seven rivals when she goes on a recovery mission in the bet365 Fillies’ Mile at Newmarket tomorrow
She topped ante-post lists for next season’s 1000 Guineas after following up a dominant display in the Duchess of Cambridge Stakes at Newmarket with victory in the Prix Morny.
However, Michael Bell’s charge could finish only fourth in the Cheveley Park Stakes at Newmarket less than a fortnight ago – and returns to the Rowley Mile with something to prove.
Jockey Danny Tudhope takes over in the saddle from Silvestre de Sousa in a race won by Yorkshire racing superstar Laurens last year.