Thistlecrack could skip King George

CONNECTIONS of precocious novice chaser Thistlecrack have still yet to decide whether to pitch the exciting prospect into the 32Red King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day on just the horse's fourth start over steeplechase fences.

Trainer Colin Tizzard said it was a 50-50 call between taking on the cream of seasoned staying chasers, including stablemate and defending champion Cue Card, or taking on horses of similar experience in the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase – formerly the Feltham – on the same card.

Tizzard hinted that Thistlecrack’s chances of going for the King George, a Grade One contest over three miles, would increase if the going was soft.

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He feels the stronger gallop of the big race might suit him better, but that thought is tempered by the fact Thistlecrack – owned by John and Heather Snook – has not yet been asked to jump in public at such a pace over fences.

“We just want to make sure we chose the right race,” said Tizzard who has had preliminary chats with the horse’s regular rider Tom Scudamore.

“A flat-out gallop in the King George might help him as he could easily sit in third or fourth and pick them up but it could also take him out of his comfort zone as he’s never done that pace over fences and that’s our issue.

“We had a long discussion with Tom yesterday and things will become clearer as the days go on. The owners will listen to what we want to do but in the end they will make the decision.”

One side issue is that Cue Card is the only horse with a chance of winning the £1m bonus that will be paid out if any chaser wins the Betfair Chase, King George and Cheltenham Gold Cup in the same season.

Owned by Jean Bishop, Cue Card already has the Betfair Chase in the bag and was on track to land the jackpot when crashing out at the third last in the Gold Cup.

“Jean has been in racing long enough and knows we have got two very good horses and we’ve got to do best for both sets of owners,” added Tizzard.

“Thistlecrack’s jumping was fantastic last time at Newbury but he’s never done the pace of the King George yet. If it came up softer, it may sway us more towards the King George.

“He has got everything and he’s not had to untap it yet. You all saw over hurdles last season that he can travel superbly well at any pace.

“He made one mistake at Cheltenham, that’s all. He landed on top of the ditch. He’s quite entitled to do that as he’s only a novice.

“We had a long discussion yesterday about the pros and cons of what to do but we’ve got another 12 days. We don’t want to make it now and then change our mind afterwards. Everyone will be 
kept in the picture and it could go 50-50.”