The gamble to pitch Thistlecrack in against the best of the British chasing crop paid off, as the inexperienced novice left hearts in mouths with a mercurial round of jumping from the front, to win the Grade 1 32Red.com King George VI Chase at Kempton Park this afternoon.
Disappointingly only five horses lined-up for this prestigious race, with no runners from Ireland or France.
Much of the build-up centred on the Colin Tizzard pair, last year’s winner Cue Card and the unbeaten winner of three novice chases, Thistlecrack, although Silviniaco Conti was bidding for a third win.
At the tapes it was Thistlecrack, the World Hurdle winner, who led from Silviniaco Conti, but the latter went on at the second fence, with the front pair a couple of lengths ahead of Josses Hill to the inside of Cue Card and then Tea For Two, who had given the rest of the field a couple of lengths lead at the start.
Silviniaco Conti, sporting a visor, continued to lead from Thistlecrack, with the other three virtually matching strides.
Racing down the home straight for the first time, Silviniaco Conti led from Thistlecrack, with Cue Card and Tea For Two and Josses Hill.
Thistlecrack just edged into the lead at the fence in front of the stands and as the crowd roared its approval, the quintet set off with a circuit to race.
At the first down the back, Thistlecrack led and his stable mate Cue Card took closer order in second, with Silviniaco Conti third and Tea For Three closing. Thistlecrack stood off the open ditch in spectacular style, but Tea For Two and Cue Card kept close tabs on him.
Cue Card came to join Thistlecrack, with Tea For Two between the pair, as SIlviniaco Conti and Josses Hill began to flounder.
Four out and Tea For Two tired and the crucial moment of the race unfolded soon afterwards.
Tom Scudamore asked his mount to increase the tempo and all of a sudden Thistlecrack opened up on Cue Card and turned for home 8 lengths clear, leaping spring-heeled over the third last.
Two from home and the novice was in a lot closer to his fence, but safely negotiated it, still well clear of Cue Card, with Josses Hill staying on.
At the last Thistlecrack was deliberate but got to the other side and whilst the other four all closed, he was never in danger of being caught.
Thistlecrack and Tom Scudamore, with power and stamina in abundance, sauntered to a comfortable victory.
There was a tremendous scrap for second, with Cue Card just inching out Silviniaco Conti and Tea For Three, as Josses Hill came home fifth.
However, this was a remarkable triumph, a ninth on the spin, for the Colin Tizzard trained 8 year old, having just the fourth start of his career over fences, having only made his debut two months ago.
Despite his inexperience and occasionally sketchy jumping, the engine was never in doubt and he negotiated this test with some aplomb.
In winning, Thistlecrack was denying his stable mate Cue Card the Jockey Clubs’ Chasing Triple Crown, although the proximity of Silviniaco Conti and Tea For Two might lead some to question whether Cue Card was at his very best here.
It would appear almost a certainty now that Thistlecrack will head to the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March, although as his stable mate found out last year, the jumping test there, where he will take on the cream of the Irish chasing fraternity, is a vastly different experience.
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.”