There are 38 entries for the Cheltenham Gold Cup but Thistlecrack isn’t among them. He misses the race for the second year running. That’s a big blow for the owners and for trainer Colin Tizzard. This time last year he was a short-priced favourite to win the Gold Cup but went wrong after losing to Many Clouds in Cheltenham’s Cotswold Chase. This year he’s ruled out by a stress fracture. It is cruel luck on his connections.
Could Thistlecrack be back next year? That’s a big ask. He’ll be eleven by then.
If Thistlecrack can’t win this year, who can?
Nicky Henderson has the favourite in Might Bite. His main concern, he says, is what Might Bite may do on the run-in. His violent swerve to the right in last year’s RSA almost handed the race to stablemate Whisper.
Sizing John will bid to become the first horse to win back-to-back Gold Cups since Best Mate. But he fluffed his lines at Christmas, as did Bristol De Mai, who has a chance to redeem himself in the Cotswold Chase in two weeks’ time.
Third favourite Native River hasn’t run so far this season and is not due to reappear until the Denman Chase at Newbury next month. That’s a worry.
Coney Island has been well backed lately, which I find puzzling. Likewise, Our Duke. He scoped badly after trailing home last at Down Royal in November so at least he had an excuse. However, I think he is far too short at around 10/1.
Road To Respect won the Christmas Chase in Ireland and could improve again. So could the Ladbroke Trophy first and second, Total Recall and Whisper, who are both around the 20/1 mark.
At this stage, I’m keen on Noel Meade’s Disko each-way at 25/1. Third in the JLT last year, he’s since won a Grade 1 at Punchestown and a Grade 2 at Down Royal. In both those races he easily beat (at level weights) Anibale Fly, who won the Paddy Power Chase last time under top weight.
Noel Meade is no mug. He was top jumps trainer in Ireland eight years out of nine between 1998 and 2007. Disko must have a good chance. It’s a shame about Thistlecrack though.