Ante-post favourite Thistlecrack ruled out of Gold Cup


Thistlecrack: ruled out of the Gold Cup with a tendon tear

  PICTURE: Mark Cranham (  

THE Cheltenham Festival lost arguably its biggest star on Tuesday morning as Thistlecrack, the 7-4 favourite for the Timico Gold Cup, was ruled out for the rest of the season with a tendon injury.

Last year’s Stayers’ Hurdle winner was deemed not quite right by trainer Colin Tizzard at evening stables on Monday and a scan on Tuesday confirmed his worst fears.

“He is out of the Gold Cup and won’t run again this season,” said Tizzard. “He had heat in his leg last night. The vet scanned him this morning and it’s a slight tendon tear.”

Though still a novice over fences Thistlecrack took the senior chasing division by the scruff of the neck when routing his field in the King George at Kempton over Christmas, before suffering his first defeat of the season when going down narrowly to Many Clouds in the Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham at the end of last month.

Betting shake-up

Stablemate Native River has replaced Thistlecrack as 3-1 market leader for chasing’s most important prize with Betfred, Paddy Power and Boylesports. Another Tizzard charge, Cue Card, was initially cut to 4-1 but was soon trimmed further into a general 7-2.

Liam Glynn of Boylesports, who offer both at 3-1, said: “Sadly Thistlecrack will miss the Gold Cup and we will leave it up to punters to decide between Cue Card and Native River which one they want to make the clear favourite but at present we cannot separate the Colin Tizzard pair.”

Tizzard evidently has some consolation for Thistlecrack’s injury, with Betway offering even-money about the Dorset trainer saddling the winner of the Gold Cup.

Paddy Power also announced that they would be refunding all ante-post bets on Thistlecrack struck before they went non-runner, no bet on the race, in the form of free bets.

Nicholls feels for Tizzard

Champion trainer Paul Nicholls, who on Tuesday hosted a morning to talk the media through his festival team and revealed Saphir Du Rheu to be on course for the Gold Cup, said: “It’s a blow to everyone and we’re all disappointed. It’s a nightmare. You’re always on the edge with them.”

“But I’m sure he’ll be back,” added Nicholls. “It’s not ideal aged nine and with a leg injury I’m sure they’ll take their time and won’t rush him back to after Christmas and look to run him in next year’s Gold Cup when he’ll be ten. You can still win it at ten.

“It’s still going to be a very good Gold Cup, but he added intrigue, being a novice. It won’t be the last one [to miss the Festival] before Cheltenham, but it’s sad when it happens.”

Gold Cup struck

The Gold Cup has been hit especially hard in what has been an extraordinarily injury-plagued festival this year.

Thistlecrack, the ante-post favourite virtually since the market was created, joins the last two winners Don Cossack (subsequently retired) and Coneygree on the injured list.

Ryanair Chase winner Vautour, who tragically died in a freak accident at home before the season got into full swing, had also been fancied as a Gold Cup contender this time around.


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