Jumps racing fans have been served notice of a Boxing Day blockbuster after connections of Thistlecrack confirmed he will face stablemate Cue Card in the King George VI Chase at Kempton.
Both horses are trained by the in-form Colin Tizzard but the Dorset handler had been tight-lipped on the prospect of pitting them against each other in the three-mile Grade One.
That all changed when Thistlecrack’s owner John Snook revealed that his charge, unbeaten since swapping hurdles for novice chasing this season, would indeed by leaving behind the junior ranks to take on the big boys on Boxing Day.
It sets up a truly mouthwatering tussle at the Sunbury track with reigning champion Cue Card now 5/4 favourite with ComeOn! to retain his crown and Thistlecrack rated a 6/4 chance for King George glory.
Cue Card emphatically won last month’s Betfair Chase and with former Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Coneygree, second at Haydock, ruled out of the King George, the path appeared clear for the popular ten-year-old to have another tilt at the Kempton contest.
Victory on Boxing Day would once more see Cue Card going to Cheltenham with a chance to land the £1m Jumps Triple Crown – which he missed out on last term when falling three fences from home in the Gold Cup under Paddy Brennan.
Many believed the Tizzard-trained pair would be kept apart, with Thistlecrack touted for a run in the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase over course and distance earlier on the Kempton card.
Cue Card is owned by Jean Bishop and, after talks with Snook, the respective owners have agreed to give their horses a sporting chance and Tizzard is happy to facilitate their wish.
“Cue Card’s owners have sat down with Thistlecrack’s owners and they are both in agreement the King George is a once-in-a-lifetime race and both horses are in cracking form, so they should take their chance,” said the trainer.
Thistlecrack was dominant in staying hurdles last season, mopping all the big three-mile races over timber. He has won all three starts over fences this term, but will be stepping into a new league when he tackles Cue Card.
A veteran of five Cheltenham Festivals, he already has five Grade One wins in staying chases on his impressive CV and looked as good as ever last month at Haydock.
Of the others entered, Nick Williams’ Tea For Two – winner of the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase a year ago – is 12/1 with ComeOn! while Vroum Vroum Mag, a potential runner for Willie Mullins, trades at 14/1.
For all new customers, ComeOn are currently offering a £10 free bet – make sure you sign up!