Cheltenham gold cup

Racing Rewind

2017-02-27
Last Tuesday came the shock news that the Cheltenham Gold Cup favourite Thistlecrack has been ruled out of the rest of the season after suffering a slight tendon tear, dealing the Festival another high profile blow just weeks before it is due to get underway.

"Thistlecrack is out. He had heat in his leg last night. The vet scanned him this morning and it's a slight tendon tear.” said Tizzard to the Racing Post on Tuesday morning.

Tizzard still has a strong hand in the Gold Cup though, with Native River being the new bookmakers favourite and the veteran Cue Card the second favourite.

Thistlecrack won his first four starts over fences, including an emphatic victory in the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day.

Despite suffering a narrow defeat at the hands of the ill-fated Many Clouds in the Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham at the end of January, Thistlecrack remained at the head of the market for the Timico Gold Cup on March 17th.

The long-term assessment for Thistlecrack is a positive one, with his trainer already planning a return to Kempton over Christmas for a repeat bid in the King George VI Chase.

"I was devastated. He is a superstar," said Tizzard later in the week, "It got to me a bit but 24 hours later and I'm fine. I'll take the positives out of it.

"We found it before it became a proper problem. He's won us the World Hurdle and King George and I'm as sure as I could ever be that he'll be fine for next season."

The loss of Thistlecrack from the Festival adds to the ever growing list of star absentees at this year’s event, with both the 2015 Champions Hurdle winner Faugheen and stable-mate Annie Power already ruled out of the Cheltenham Champion Hurdle at the start of the month by Willie Mullins, who also confirmed that Min would not contest the Arkle Trophy.

Joining that list and missing the Gold Cup is Don Cossack and Coneygree, while Valseur Lido who was another in the Ryanair Chase/Gold Cup mix suffered an injury on the gallops last month. Ar Mad will not be ready to contest either the Champion Chase or the Ryanair, while last season’s Champion Chase winner Sprinter Sacre was retired last November after picking up a leg injury.

Despite there being this long who’s who list of missing equine greats there are now plenty of openings and opportunities for new champions to take to the stage and write their own little pieces of Festival history.

The show will go on.

***

French jockey Thierry Jarnet, best known in recent years as the rider of the magnificent mare Treve, announced his retirement from the saddle this week citing problems with his leg had forced him to take the decision.

The 49-year-old rode the Criquette Head-Maarek-trained Treve to eight of her nine career victories, including successive triumphs in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp in 2013 and 2014.

Jarnet told P.A Sport "I'm not going to be riding this season, I have had to finish. I've had a problem with my leg. I've no plans to start training, I don't know what I'll do yet."

For much of his career, Jarnet rode principally for Andre Fabre and was crowned champion jockey in France on four occasions.

Fabre provided Jarnet with his first Group One success when Subotica took the 1991 Grand Prix de Paris. The same combination went on to win the following year's Arc and the Prix Ganay.

Chantilly based trainer Andre Fabre said “He was a great jockey, top class, but the main thing he was a gentleman. He was quite fit for his age so I’m surprised at this.”

He continued, “We enjoyed good days together, Pennekamp winning the Guineas was one of the best.”

Also paying tribute to Jarnet, was Treve’s trainer Criquette Head-Maarek, saying, “Thierry came to the stables this morning to tell me he he was retiring and I am a little bit sad as we’ve had so many great days together. It’s Thierry’s decision and it happens to us all, I suppose.”

***

Michael Scudamore's Mysteree battled on gamely to hold off Knockanrawley in the Eider Chase at Newcastle on Saturday afternoon. The nine-year-old was sent off a 10-1 chance for the extended four-mile feature.

With the field thinned out and just four fences left to jump, Robbie Dunne seized the initiative on Mysteree and went several lengths up.

Knockanrawley, who had also been prominent, and Shotgun Paddy tried to bridge the gap but Mysteree kept up his gallop and just made it to the line in time. Harry The Viking plugged on just behind them in fourth.

Scudamore - who celebrated his 33rd birthday on Friday with victory in the Devon National with Kingswell Theatre – may now go to the Scottish National at Ayr, but admits ground conditions may not be ideal for Mysteree in the spring time.

***

In a ride reminiscent of Paul Carberry on Harchibald many years ago, James Best produced Pilgrims Bay (25/1) with a perfectly timed run to grab the spoils in the BetBright Chase at Kempton on Saturday.

Double Shuffle (11/2) finished second with last year’s winner Theatre Guide (11/1) back in third.

Best was unceremoniously unshipped shortly after the line.

He said: "I'd done celebrating, I was trying to pull him up. I delivered him as late as I dare, with the fact he is so quirky, and sure enough he's dropped his shoulder - you have to expect the unexpected with him."

***

Top jump jockeys (last 7 days): K.Woods (3/8), S.Sheppard (3/8), D.Bass (4/12), A.Johns (3/10), A.Coleman (3/12).

Top jump trainers (last 7 days): H.Fry (3/8), W.Mullins (3/9), T.Vaughan (4/16), K.Bailey (4/17).