Nick Scholfield

23rd February 2017

Thistlecrack is out, but the Gold Cup is still shaping up

Thistlecrack is out of the Timico Gold Cup, which is really disappointing news. With Annie Power, Faugheen and Coneygree already out through injury and Sprinter Sacre retired, the Festival is missing some really big names this year.

You have to feel for his owners John and Heather Snook who must be bitterly disappointed, but reading their comments in the Press, they understand racing and horses, and the risks associated with the sport. That’s why you have to enjoy the highs when they come along as there is always plenty of disappointment and plenty of lows to endure.

There will always be a fine line when you are training horses at the highest level, its just unfortunate its come before Cheltenham.

But that’s the thing about Cheltenham. You have to get there at the top of your game. It’s like any sport, when you are training at the highest level, you are at higher risk from injury.

The Gold Cup is still a very high quality field and it’s hard to see the winner just yet. Cue Card put up an incredible performance in the Grade One Betfair Ascot Chase at Ascot last weekend, and there’s Djakadam for the Irish and Ann and Garth Brooks’ Native River who has done everything right this season. It’s still a puzzle about which horse will win.

Cue Card has been at Grade One level all his life, and that is an incredible achievement. Jump horses do have that longevity which is oftenmissing in Flat horses, and he has really captured the imagination. He’s always there on the big days and he’s become such a household name. He’s great for the sport and a credit to Colin Tizzard.

Today we have the Devon National at Exeter, sponsored by Higos Insurance Services, and a really card good is in prospect. I won the race in 2012 on Clash Duff, trained by Jeremy Scott. It’s a really decent pot of prize of prize money and attracts some well known racehorses.

Tomorrow at Kempton Park there’s a very good Grade 3 three mile handicap sponsored by Betway, previously known as the Racing Post Chase. There’s also the Bet Bright Genius Adonis Juvenile Hurdle on the card too. It’s a really good meeting pre Cheltenham. There’s the Betfred Eider Chase at Newcastle and a good card at Chepstow too, and on Sunday there’s the Grade 2 totepool National Spirit at Fontwell. It’s a good weekend.

I rode a winner for Paul Nicholls at Wincanton on a nice horse called Persian Delight. It was a really good day and it was great to catch up with friends there. There’s always a bit of a buzz on Kingwell Hurdle Day and it was great that the weather held off.

The Cheltenham Festival Preview Evenings start next week. I’m doing a few, including Exeter’s on March 7. With Luke Harvey on the panel it should be a really good evening. Luke is doing such a great job on ITV Racing, and with him on the panel, rather than hosting, it should make for a really interesting evening. I’m doing a couple for friends which are charity fund raisers too. They are also really informative and a good pre-Festival warm up.