With a whole host of high profile horses having already become ruled out of the upcoming Cheltenham Festival, the news that former Gold Cup favourite Thistlecrack will miss the remainder of the season through injury is certainly far from pleasant reading for horse racing fans. Trainer Colin Tizzard announced the latest casualty for the event earlier this week, with the former World Hurdle winner not expected to return to action until the end of 2017 due to a severe tendon injury.
Having dominated in the staying hurdle division last year, the nine-year-old took to fences like a duck to water, winning his first four starts in the new discipline, including the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day. Despite suffering a narrow defeat to former Grand National winner Many Clouds in the Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham in January, with Oliver Sherwood’s prized asset passing away shortly after crossing the finishing line, Thistlecrack was the favourite for the Gold Cup among all bookmakers.
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However, with the likes of Coneygree, Annie Power and Faugheen having already been ruled out, some of the anticipation surrounding the famous event has certainly shifted, with many excitedly awaiting the performance of Thistlecrack in particular. Jockey Tom Scudamore had been set to ride the favourites in both the Gold Cup and Grand National this year, however the Englishman now faces the prospect of being without a ride for Cheltenham’s showcase race.
Champion trainer Willie Mullins knows all too well how Tizzard must be feeling, however the Irishman will be looking to the likes of Djakaman and Outlander, both of whom have been heavily backed since the injury to Thistlecrack. Elsewhere, despite entering 66/1 shot Saphir Du Rheu for the Gold Cup on March 17th, trainer Paul Nicholls has backed Native River to come out on top in front of the packed grandstands in the South-West of England.