Joe Tizzard is delighted with both Thistlecrack and Cue Card as they prepare to target the key staying chase prizes in the new jumps season.
Both horses are said to be on course for Kempton’s King George VI Chase at Christmas, a race in which the novice Thistlecrack condemned former winner Cue Card to second last time around.
Thistlecrack hasn’t run since losing his unbeaten record to the ill-fated Many Clouds in a Cheltenham thriller on Trials Day in January.
A tendon problem in early February ended his season and denied the eight-year-old a tilt at the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March – a race he had been odds-on favourite to win.
He’s now back in rude health and looks a “picture”, according to Tizzard, assistant trainer to father Colin at the Dorset base.
The King George, where is the 3/1 favourite to reign supreme again, is his firm target and he is on schedule.
“He’s been on the walker and been ridden, hacking, for five weeks now. He had a slight tear in a tendon in February, but it was very minor. He’s been treated and had his box rest, then been out at grass,” Tizzard said at the yard’s annual open day.
“He’ll have two months of gentle road work and be back for Christmas, when the plan is to give him a racecourse gallop before going for the King George again. He looks a picture and his legs are perfect. He’s well on schedule.”
Cue Card fell in the Gold Cup for the second year running back in March before going down to Tea For Two in the Aintree Bowl.
He perhaps paid the price for taking Thistlecrack on too soon in last year’s King George and is 22/1 to win the three-mile Grade One for the second time in his stellar career this year.
Despite rising 12, Tizzard says there are no indications that Cue Card is ready to call it a day.
“He’s showing no signs of old age. He looks absolutely superb and is not ready to retire yet. He’s burning up our gallops and is in real good form,” he added.
Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Sizing John can be backed at 4/1 for the King George after trainer Jessica Harrington confirmed she intends to target the race.