After the gallant Many Clouds beat Thistlecrack in the Cotswold Chase, there are doubts about whether last season’s World Hurdle champion can win the showpiece event at this year’s Cheltenham Festival.
Oliver Sherwood’s Grand National hero Many Clouds was a horse like no other. His love of the game and the fact he wore his heart on his sleeve is a reason why he was, and will continue to be loved by everyone in the racing world. He will be sorely missed.
On the face of it, Thistlecrack was beaten over the same course but over a distance that is a furlong less than the Gold Cup. So that doesn’t bode too well, as it seems he was simply outstayed and out battled by a dour stayer. Therefore, he may be vulnerable in races that are made to be a significant test of stamina. But the contest was actually ran over almost a furlong further than was advertised due to rail movements, making it almost the same distance as the Gold Cup itself. Bearing this is mind, I’m not sure we can have any stamina doubts about what is simply, an absolute machine.
The front pair finished 17 lengths clear of Smad Place who has an official rating of 163 and there is no reason to think he didn’t run close to that. Many Clouds was rated 166 and ran the race of his life so the form is absolutely rock solid. This was quite possibly Thistlecrack’s best performance to date, and people can be forgiven for thinking it wasn't as he didn’t actually win.
Soft ground probably played into the hands of the winner, I’m not saying Thistlecrack is disadvantaged by a winter surface but it didn’t aid his cause over the weekend. The likely good spring ground at the festival in March would give me more confidence that he would see out the race powerfully and jump better.
His jumping wasn’t particularly spectacular like it was at Kempton on Boxing Day. It seemed as though he didn’t fly over his fences as he often has done in previous races, he wasn’t very fluent and landing steeply on a number of occasions, meaning that he kept losing momentum at crucial stages. He should have learned plenty and it would be foolish to think he can’t get the job done come Friday 17th March in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
I’m not convinced that his loss has hampered his chance of winning the Gold Cup in any shape or form. It has just made him a much more feasible price for punters to back him at, 7/4 can be found at Betfred who are non-runner no bet at the four Championship races at Cheltenham 2017.
Saturdays result will have given plenty of hope to other trainers and there are a number of horses that could put up a strong challenge to Thistlecrack. Cue Card can’t have given his true running in the King George and should fair much better at Cheltenham. Outlander won the Lexus Chase in Ireland and is very much unexposed over staying distances so he could prove to be a superstar in the future. Native River is a top class galloper and will no doubt make the Gold Cup a thorough test and surely has a great each way chance.
With plenty of clues still to come, this years renewal of the Gold Cup has the potential to be very competitive indeed.
Betfred NRNB Cheltenham Festival 2017
Use Betfred for your ante-post Cheltenham Festival bets this year and you’ll get their non-runner no bet offer for the four Championship races – the Champion Hurdle, Champion Chase, Stayers’ Hurdle and Cheltenham Gold Cup. So if your horse doesn’t run you’ll get a refund.