King George VI Chase: Thistlecrack lands Kempton success

Tom Scudamore celebrates victory on Thistlecrack
Tom Scudamore hailed his mount as 'phenomenal'

The 11-10 favourite Thistlecrack recorded an impressive victory over stable-mate Cue Card to win the King George VI Chase at Kempton.

In only his fourth race over fences, the nine-year-old, ridden by Tom Scudamore, pulled away from his more experienced rivals at the home turn.

He stretched his lead and looked dominant as he beat Cue Card by just over three lengths.

"I never imagined it would be as easy as that," said Scudamore.

The meeting between the two Colin Tizzard-trained horses had been eagerly anticipated.

Cue Card, who turns 11 on New Year's Day, was bidding for back-to-back wins in the race, while Thistlecrack, who won the World Hurdle at this year's Cheltenham Festival, was being tested properly for the first time over fences.

With only five horses entered in the Boxing Day showpiece, Thistlecrack took the lead early on and was prominent throughout.

Although the younger horse by two years went clear with a circuit to go, Cue Card and jockey Paddy Brennan moved up to challenge with six fences to go.

However, Thistlecrack turned on the style to power clear in spectacular fashion and the win sees him become the odds-on favourite for March's Cheltenham Gold Cup.

"He's at the peak of his powers. It's quite frightening to watch, isn't it?" said Tizzard.

"We've all seen Thistlecrack for the last few years, he's had his biggest test and he's a brilliant horse. He's got everything you'd want in a racehorse.

"Cue Card could have cried 'enough' at the last, but he stuck his head out and finished second, so it's brilliant."

The Dorset-based trainer added that Thistlecrack could run in the Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham on 28 January for more experience over fences, but Cue Card might head straight for the Festival.

Analysis

BBC horse racing correspondent Cornelius Lysaght

This was breathtaking from Thistlecrack, whose jumping was barely believable for an inexperienced steeplechaser who made his chasing debut as recently as October.

The manner in which the horse, previously a champion over hurdles, disposed of stable-mate Cue Card and the rest from the fourth-last fence was as magnificent as it was contemptuous, and the winning distance - 3¼ lengths - doesn't begin to describe the ease with which this was achieved.

Judged by the buzz of the large crowd, Thistlecrack - plus Cue Card and the Tizzards, to be fair - are capturing a wider and wider public imagination. This felt like the start of something very, very special.

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