307 days. 43 Weeks, 5 Days, 23 Hours, 59 Minutes and 59 Seconds. That, is roughly how long it’s been since we last saw the mighty Thistlecrack, one of the most exciting horses in training and a leading contender for The Cheltenham Gold Cup. Today he makes his reappearance on the opening day of the Ladbrokes Winter Carnival.
Since then Colin Tizzard’s star has been off the track since then, having been found to have some heat in a leg before Tizzard’s vet confirmed a small tear to a tendon after taking a scan. His absence left the rest of the season a lot lighter, but to the delight of racing fans he reappears in today’s Long Distance Hurdle (3.00).
He’s an evens favourite to get back straight onto the winning trail, with a very advantageous weight as he’s not raced over hurdles since taking the Liverpool Hurdle of 2016 – meaning he gets weight from some of his rivals. However, this is also his first run since a tendon tear, and a race that is certain not to be his target with the King George and Gold Cup surely of more importance. It is far better to sit and see if he retains his ability – hopefully all of it – but today he can be taken on.
Uknowhatimeanaharry is one of the most consistent horses in training and will come here ripe and ready, having dropped back to 2m4f around Aintree in a three runner race to get the better of Value At Risk and Top Notch, giving over a stone away to the pair. It was a serious effort on his reappearance and he won this race last year by six lengths whilst also winning the Cleeve Hurdle before he finished third in the Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham. He took the World Series Hurdle at Punchestown to boot and sets a high standard for the rest to aim at.
Colin’s Sister put in a career-best performance to take the West Yorkshire Hurdle when she beat Wholestone, third in last year’s Albert Bartlett, fair and square. She’s got a 3lbs penalty for that but could shape better for her first outing of the season and those pair do look quite big in relation to the front two in the pair, although it would have been better if there had been a bigger field for each/way purposes.
This should be a nice pipe opener for Taquin De Seuil whilst Beer Googles is progressive and deserves respect, although this is a jump into the deep end for him.
Just over an hour earlier, there’s a fascinating clash in the Berkshire Novices’ Chase (1.50). The market sees this as a clash between last season’s Liverpool Hurdle winner Yanworth, and our ante post selection for the JLT, Neptune winner Willoughby Court. Both are already winners over fences, with Yanworth having won cosily enough over 2 miles at Exeter before falling when stepped up in trip at the same venue, whilst Willoughby Court had to work very hard to get over the line at Huntington when making his chasing debut.
For more in depth previews like this and great tips check out our Membership options – includes Free Membership!
Not too many were impressed with the manner of that victory, but going right handed was anathema to what Willoughby Court wanted and he ought to have improved a great deal given the nature of his jumping there.
The two will not have it between them, as Adrien Du Pont bounced right back to form when winning with plenty in hand at Fontwell on his chasing debut in October. That was a strong race for the track, and the form looks solid with the fifth winning a good handicap since along with wins for the second and third.
This is an extremely tough introduction to racing under rules for Battle Anthem, and Western Miller has been running well but will find easier opportunities.
Sandwiching the two is the Ladbrokes Open Handicap Chase (2.20), which gives us a small but very well contested field here. The best piece of form might be the Old Roan Chase third of Oldgrangewood, and the handicapper could have been kind in dropping him two pounds for that effort. The winner was the top class Smad Place, whilst the second was Cloudy Dream, last year’s Arkle and Manifesto Chase second. He was a pretty clear third of what had looked a strong contest and a repeat will see him go well.
O O Seven will be an interesting fixture in handicaps this season after a good novice chase campaign although Willie Boy, who kept up a remarkable pace to beat the stayer Henry Parry Morgan over this same course from the get go last time. Ridgeway Flyer is a 6yo who is on the up still and he might be able to absorb his handicap rise too whilst Jameson showed a very good attitude winning a Sandown Novice Handicap.
Icing On The Cake, third in a strongly contested and similar handicap chase towards the back end of last season and is very well handicapped on that basis.
The opener (12.25) looks a decent contest but the standard that Lostintranslation has shown his two outings over timber, including when runner-up to Nicky Henderson’s Claimantakinforgan (fifth in the Champion Bumper) over C&D last month, and if repeating that level, he can go close again here.
Black Op looked like he’d take high rank when beating Claimantakinforgan in a bumper at Doncaster in February before finishing down the field in a bumper at Aintree, but he is better than that and he can go well here. World Premier won his bumper impressively at Market Rasen and was purchased over the summer by JP McManus here, although the form of that event hasn’t worked out as one would like since.
12.20 Newbury – 1 pt win Lostintranslation (9/4 general)
2.20 Newbury – 1 pt each/way Oldgrangewood (6/1 general)
3.00 Newbury – 2 pts win Unkowhatimeanharry (2/1 general)