Tough to pick holes in Thistlecrack’s World Hurdle claims
Thistlecrack’s 5/4 favouritism in the World Hurdle has all the goading, taunting appeal of an unclaimed pint of Guinness being poured wastefully into the slops.
With no rival shorter than 5/1 chance Cole Harden, it suggests there must be some value in taking on the jolly in the smaller-obstacles stayers’ blue riband.
However, that would require there to be holes in the case for the market leader, with such pockmarks invisible to the naked eye.
Doubts over his liking for Cheltenham raised by a tame showing on Trials Day in 2015, were expunged in no uncertain terms a year later, with a 12l victory over Ptit Zig on his most recent run at the track in January.
The fact that race, his highest-rated performance yet in the eyes of the handicapper, was fought out on heavy ground, might suggest he would need similar going at the Festival to be seen to the same effect.
Yet the run that first announced him as a name to follow on the staying timber scene came last summer on good ground, at flat and speedy Aintree.
The aforementioned races suggest Thistlecrack has both the durability to win over 3m at stamina sapping, undulating Cheltenham on heavy ground and the speed and action to thrive on faster surfaces at quicker tracks.
Alpha Des Obeaux fell when attempting to keep tabs on him on the latter occasion, while he has since finished comfortably ahead of Festival opponents Cole Harden, Saphir Du Rheu and Whisper in his three outings since.
The latter pair have much to prove, having failed to place better than fifth this season, while the champion didn’t even run to within 4lbs of Thistlecrack’s rating when winning the World Hurdle on his favoured good ground last year.
Aux Ptits Soins hasn’t raced since winning at the Coral Cup last year, at the same Festival where Lieutenant Colonel finished a 29l tenth behind Cole Harden.
Kilcooley and Martello Tower much prefer softer ground and the best days of At Fishers Cross, Bobs Worth and Knockara Beau are slowly fading photographs.