Thistlecrack well beaten into fifth on return to racing
Beer Goggles caused a huge upset in the Ladbrokes Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury
Thistlecrack ridden by Tom Scudamore runs in the Ladbrokes Long Distance Hurdle during day one of the The Ladbrokes Winter Carnival at Newbury Racecourse. Photo: Tim Goode/PA Wire
Thistlecrack had to settle for fifth on his eagerly-awaited reappearance as Beer Goggles caused a huge upset in the Ladbrokes Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury.
The Grade Two contest was billed as a match between last year’s winner Unowhatimeanharry and the brilliant Thistlecrack, who was making his first competitive appearance since being beaten by the ill-fated Many Clouds at Cheltenham in January.
Richard Woollacott’s Beer Goggles, a widely unconsidered 40-1 chance, was sent straight to the front by champion jockey Richard Johnson, with a strong-travelling Thistlecrack his nearest pursuer.
The race began in earnest from the home turn and it was soon clear the Colin Tizzard-trained 11-10 favourite Thistlecrack was emptying quickly, eventually weakening to finish well beaten in the hands of Tom Scudamore.
Unowhatimeanharry knuckled down after the final flight in an attempt to claw back the leader, but Beer Goggles was not for catching and came home two and a quarter lengths clear.
Scudamore was not too disappointed by Thistlecrack’s performance. He said: “He’s just got tired going to the second-last. Until that point I was very happy with him. He’s got all the same enthusiasm and jumped superbly. He didn’t feel any different to the horse I rode 10 months ago.
“He’s had an injury in the meantime and he was taking on horses that were all race-fit. That was the difference between him and the rest of them. He was fresh and well and happy to be back on the track, but from the second-last he’s got tired on me.
“I’d like to think he’ll improve an awful lot from that. They’ve done the right thing running him here today and we’ll see what the next few days and weeks bring.”
Tizzard confirmed Thistlecrack would still be trained to defend his crown in the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day.
He said: “Until two out it looked like he could possibly win it. Before the race, looking at the other ones that had raced four or five times, he looked like he was burly to me. I think he has run like that.
“I think he ran a little bit fresh. I think we were absolutely right coming here before the King George. He’s a big, heavy horse and he got tired in the last two furlongs.
“As long as he comes out sound we shall be going there [King George]. I am just glad we didn’t go to the King George without a run. This is a very good race. I saw them beforehand and they looked race-fit and I thought he needed it.”