THISTLECRACK PUSHED OUT FOR GOLD CUP FOLLOWING COTSWOLD CHASE DEFEAT

"He was the complete horse - one of a lifetime “ was how devastated trainer Oliver Sherwood described his much-loved stable star Many Clouds who sadly died following his heroic victory over the ‘ unbeatable ‘ Thistlecrack in the Betbright Trial Cotswold Chase at Prestbury Park on Saturday afternoon.

The winner of Newbury’s Hennessy Gold Cup in 2014 and achieving world-wide fame less than five months later when beating Saint Are in the most famous steeplechase of all - the Crabbie’s Grand National at Aintree, the Trevor Hemmings-owned gelding possibly saved his career-best performance for last in outjumping and outstaying the Cheltenham betting favourite, a feat that was to prove too much for the son of Cloudings whose heart gave out shortly after passing the winning post.

There are times when the wonderful sport of National Hunt Racing can produce a cruel side that is sometimes hard to come to terms with but life goes on and even without Many Clouds in the race the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup will once again thrill all of us who love jumps racing in just over six weeks time.

Now that Thistlecrack has shown himself to be vulnerable bookmakers have pushed the son of Kayf Tara out from a shade of odds-on to a best price 2-1 for the Gold Cup with several firms including Betfred and Paddy Power who are NRNB for the four championship races at the Cheltenham Festival. Stablemate Native River is next best at a standout 11-2 with Betstars followed by Djakadam who will attempt to go one better than his runner-up spots behind Coneygree in 2015 and Don Cossack last year.

A general 6-1 chance with most firms the Willie Mullins-trained gelding is currently available at 8-1 with Betfair Sportsbook, the same price quote by Betstars and William Hill about last season’s unlucky faller and stable companion of both Thistlecrack and Native River - Cue Card. One horse who entered the Gold Cup picture last week with an impressive victory in Gowran park’s Thyestes Chase was Champagne West who joined trainer Henry De Bromhead from Philip Hobbs this season. Unable to fulfil his undoubted promise in this country due to some sloppy jumping the nine-year-old has looked a different proposition since crossing the Irish sea making the 25-1 available with Boylesports and Stan James very tempting.

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By Alan Kelly

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