By Andy Stephens
Connections of Thistlecrack are adamant he will return as good as ever this season after making a full recovery from the tendon injury that has kept him on the sidelines since January.
The nine-year-old is on course to return in the Ladbrokes Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury on December 1 en route to trying to gain back-to-back wins in the 32Red King George VI Chase at kempton on Boxing Day.
He featured among 26 entries revealed on Wednesday for the latter race and Colin Tizzard, his trainer, is delighted with his wellbeing.
“We had him in first week in August, we’re now in November and we’re just starting to go a bit faster with him,” he said in an interview for The Jockey Club’s Love The Jumps podcast. “He’s got a month of fast work and he’ll be ready to run. He’ll have a hurdle before we go in the King George because we can’t really go there first time up.
“I feel his legs once a week now and someone else feels them every other day, not every day but I have a little feel and they seem absolutely fine. I think ‘which leg was it?’ I’m sure it was that one and then they say ‘no it was that one’. There’s nothing there to be seen. So we’ll treat him now with no kid gloves. He will be doing all his work in the next month ready for his first race.”
He added: “He’s one of the best horses I’ve seen. He was brilliant last year, brilliant the year before over hurdles and there’s absolutely no reason why he shouldn’t be just as brilliant this year.”
Tizzard’s son and assistant, Joe, is also excited about the months ahead for the brilliant 2016 Stayers’ Hurdle winner, whose only defeat in five starts over fences last season was when beaten a head by Many Clouds in the Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham in late January.
“He will be back to his best. There’s no reason at all why he won’t be,” Tizzard Jr said. “I’m excited about running him. He’s our best horse at the moment. What will he have missed? He’ll have missed nine months of his career, so it’s nothing.
“We’re really excited to get him back. And he’ll be right. He’ll have done everything. He’s back going up the gallop three times a day, he’s on our sand gallop as well. He’s starting to look fitter. He will have done the right amount of work before he runs. He will have schooled. He will have done everything because we’ve ticked all the boxes all the way through so I can’t wait to run him.”
Thistlecrack is 4-1 with Bet365 for the King George, and the Tizzard team could also be represented by Cue Card, a general 20-1, and Fox Norton, a best-priced 16-1 with SkyBet.
Dual Grade One winner Might Bite, one of the most exciting novice chasers last season, is the general 7-2 favourite and Nicky Henderson also has Whisper and Top Notch entered. That pair are 25-1.
Sizing John, the Gold Cup winner, is one of nine horses from Ireland entered. Owned by Alan Potts, Sizing John is quoted at 4-1 and is set to go for The Jockey Club Chase Triple Crown and the £1million bonus. Other Irish raiders include the Willie Mullins pair Djakadam (12-1) and Douvan (10-1).
Coneygree (25-1), Bristol De Mai (14-1) and Tea For Two (16-1) are other notable entries.