Alan King's charge looks a major player for Cheltenham glory after impressing at Ascot.
There was no hiding place for Thistlecrack in the extended three mile Grade 1 JLT Long Walk as Reve De Sivola made it a real test of stamina but Tom Scudamore rode a supremely confident race on the 2-1 favourite and, sweeping to the front two out, was soon in command as he sauntered to an eight length victory.
The runner-up had won the previous three runnings of the Long Walk and Thistlecrack now goes to the Cleeve Hurdle at the Trials meeting at Cheltenham and is quite correctly priced as the 3-1 favourite for the World Hurdle at the Festival. Tizzard has no doubts the Kayf Tara gelding is equally effective going right-handed or left-handed, hurdles better than Ed Moses, and for obvious reasons his chasing career has been put on hold. The agonising part for followers is awaiting the big day in March but Value seekers have certainly pulled the Christmas cracker.
Yanworth wasn’t far behind the best in the bumper division last year when he finished an honourable fourth behind Moon Racer, Modus and Wait For Me in the Champion event at the Festival and he is looking much more the finished article over hurdles as he displayed in the Grade 2 Sky Bet Supreme Trial Novices’ Hurdle at Ascot on Friday.
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A winner of his first two hurdles at Exeter and Warwick in November, the Alan King-trained made it three out of three with an almost unblemished round. His jumping is getting sharper as he gains more experience and the 12-1 for the Supreme Novices’ looks a tempting each way wager with those who finished in front in the Champion bumper either having participation doubts or not looking particularly fluent over hurdles at present. Alan King provided AP McCoy with a supremely-desired last winner at the Festival last year when Uxizandre won the Ryanair Chase last March and the Barbury Castle Stables trainer can be almost guaranteed to have Yanworth spot on for his big day.
One of the other exciting aspects of last week was the display of Bitofapuzzle on her chasing bow in the two mile three mares novices chase at Exeter on Thursday. The seven-year-old jumped like a cat throughout and could hardly have been more impressive as she came home 11 lengths clear of Kayfleur, a margin that could easily have been doubled.
Harry Fry’s mare was beaten only a head and a neck by Glens Melody and Polly Peachum in the Grade 1 David Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle at the Festival last March and has class in abundance. Next stop for further experience will be somewhere in January but her handler hasn’t ruled out the possibility of her taking on the geldings and she looks one to follow throughout the season.