Gold Cup wide open after Thistlecrack injury
With many predicting a comfortable victory for the King George VI Chase winner, the news that Thistlecrack has been ruled out of the upcoming Cheltenham Gold Cup now means that the iconic race is up for grabs, with a whole host of names now coming into the equation. The former World Hurdle winner has been ruled out for the season with a tendon injury, adding to an ever-increasing list of absentees for March's Cheltenham Festival.
Despite the nine-year-old being absent, trainer Colin Tizzard has plenty of other options for the race, with the Englishman holding the two new favourites for the crown, Cue Card and Native River. Bookmakers Betway Sports offer the duo at equal odds of 4/1, with Willie Mullins' double Punchestown Chase winner Djakadam not too far adrift at just 6/1. Breaking the disappointing news, Tizzard stated:
'Thistlecrack is out for the season, unfortunately. He had a bit of heat in his leg last night and was a bit sore.cWe had the leg scanned this morning and he has a slight tear on his tendon. We've seen it at every yard and it happens every year.'
Despite failing to give any indication on a return date for his prized asset, it is thought that even a defence of his King George VI Chase crown in December may be optimistic, with the 2018 Cheltenham Gold Cup not being ruled out as a comeback date at his stage. The news also comes as a disappointment for jockey Tom Scudamore, who having looked like riding the favourites for the Gold Cup as well as the Grand National, could well find himself without a ride for next month's biggest race.
Despite having been narrowly defeated by 2015 Grand National winner Many Clouds in the Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham, in which the Oliver Sherwood trained horse passed away seconds after crossing the finishing line, Thistlecrack had lit up the world of jump racing since switching disciplines at the back end of 2016. However, he now joins famous names such as Faugheen and Annie Power, as well as the last two winners of the Gold Cup Coneygree and Don Cossack who will miss out on events in March.
Fellow 2016 winners Sprinter Sacre and Vautour also miss out having won the Champions Chase and Ryanair Chase respectively last year, with many races now looking wide open with just under a month remaining until the festival gets underway. Having previously been installed as the favourite for April's Grand National at Aintree, Hennessy Gold Cup, Welsh Grand National and Denman Chase winning stablemate Native River is now expected to be one of the stars of the show, predictably going in alongside Cue Card as favourites for the Gold Cup.