Despite having only his fourth outing over fences the Colin Tizzard-trained Thistlecrack produced one of the most impressive performances by a staying chaser in recent year’s when becoming the first novice to claim Kempton’s christmas highlight - the 32Red King George V1 Chase on Boxing Day. 

Great things had been expected from the outstanding World Hurdle winner, as the son of Kayf Tara embarked upon a career over the bigger obstacles this season but following a debut success at Chepstow just two months ago  few could have envisaged the eight-year-old being asked to take on his outstanding stablemate Cue Card and company in the King George with so little chasing experience under his belt,but the decision was rewarded with a breathtaking victory over his four rivals who were left toiling in his wake when jockey Tom Scudamore asked the gelding to put the race to bed after jumping the fourth from home. 

Such was the authority of the three and a quarter length ( eased close home ) demolition job that bookmaker Ladbrokes were forced to cut the horse into 4-5 for a repeat performance in next year’s Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup at the festival although a best price 5-4 is still available with several firms including Bet365, Betfred, Betvictor and Paddy Power. 

On the same Kempton card a serious Champion Hurdle rival to the Willie Mullins battalion emerged in the shape of the Alan King-trained Yanworth who, despite failing to jump with any fluency at times and looking to be struggling against chief market rivals The New One and My Tent Or Yours with three to jump, eventually ran out a convincing winner under Barry Geraghty, earning a top quote of 6-1 with the sponsor and Betfair Sportsbook for the championship contest next March.

 The Grade 1 32Red Kauto Star Novices’ Chase looked at the mercy of Might Bite and jockey Daryl Jacob as the Nicky Henderson-trained seven-year-old approached the last with an unassailable lead only to take a heavy fall leaving the way clear for a total boil-over as 33-1 chance Royal Vacation took full advantage for a most fortunate victory. The meeting at Leopardstown also staged a Grade 1 contest for novice chasers in the shape of the Racing Post Novices’ Chase which featured an eagerly anticipated clash between a couple of exciting prospects in Min and Identity Thief but with the latter putting up a lack-lustre performance, eventually being pulled up lame, the 4-5 mount of Ruby Walsh had little trouble in seeing off the rest of the opposition earning a top quote of 7-2 with Stan James, Paddy Power and William Hill for the Racing Post Chase at the festival.

By Alan Kelly

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