Thistlecrack wins King George VI Chase in style at Kempton
Royal Vacation in shock 32Red Kauto Star Novices’ Chase triumph after dramatic finish
Thistlecrack ridden by Tom Scudamore during The 32Red King George VI Steeple Chase Race at Kempton Park. Photograph: PA
Thistlecrack produced an incredible performance to run out a brilliant winner of the 32Red King George VI Chase at Kempton.
The dominant force in the staying hurdle division last season and unbeaten in just three previous starts over fences, the Colin Tizzard-trained eight-year-old was sent off the 11-10 favourite to see off four rivals which included his stable companion and last year’s winner Cue Card (5-4).
Dual King George hero Silviniaco Conti took the quintet along in the early stages, before Thistlecrack pulled his way to the front in the hands of Tom Scudamore.
Paddy Brennan was alive to the move aboard Cue Card and moved into second to set up the battle many had hoped for.
However, Thistlecrack found another gear rounding the home turn, leaving his stablemate and the rest of the field trailing in his wake.
The bold-jumping market leader safely negotiated the remaining obstacles and a jubilant Scudamore punched the air as his mount passed the post three and a quarter lengths to the good.
It was a close thing for second, with Cue Card just holding the late rally of Silviniaco Conti.
Scudamore said: “For the first time in my life I’m pretty speechless. It’s wonderful — I thought he’d win, but I never imagined he’d do it as easy as that.
“He’s a phenomenal racehorse, he’s a pleasure to ride and a great credit to everyone. To win a King George on his fourth run over fences, it just shows the hard work everyone back at the yard has done and I’m so thrilled to be part of it.”
He added: “Between myself, my father (Peter) and grandfather (Michael) we’ve had about 33,000 winners and he’s the best one of the lot.”
Earlier Royal Vacation was gifted victory after a dramatic conclusion to the 32Red Kauto Star Novices’ Chase.
Impressive Sandown winner Amore Alato took the field along during the early stages of the three-mile Grade One before the Nicky Henderson-trained Might Bite took over the running heading out for the second circuit.
The seven-year-old produced some bold leaps in the hands of Daryl Jacob and appeared to have the race firmly in safe keeping until he stood too far off the final fence and suffered a crashing fall.
His exit left Colin Tizzard’s 33-1 shot Royal Vacation in a clear lead in the colours of Cue Card and he safely negotiated the obstacle to seal a shock 12-length victory.
The well-fancied Frodon was second when he also fell at the last, leaving Virgilio to fill the runner-up spot ahead of Amore Alato.
Irish raider Anibale Fly was the 3-1 favourite but jumped poorly and Barry Geraghty eventually pulled him up in the back straight.
Winning rider Paddy Brennan said: “I’d have accepted being second. His experience told early because they went extremely quick.
“One thing Colin said to me was to be positive. It’s some performance to win that race.
“I think it was the trip more than the blinkers that helped him.”
Tizzard said: “He ran OK nine days ago and was staying on well that day. He has got lots of experience as a novice.
“Hopefully the other horses are fine. He would have been a good second, but we will take it.
“He has been all right. We put the blinkers on instead of the cheekpieces as he looks about a bit.
“He has hardly had a blow and he has just won a Grade One. We will take that. I don’t think we will leave him three months before the Festival, he will have one more run somewhere.”
Owner Jean Bishop added: “We thought he’d run well. I’m sorry about the one that fell, but that’s what happens. He’d have been a good second anyway.”
Henderson said of Might Bite: “He seems OK. Daryl is as a well. His pride’s a little dented, but he’ll be fine.”