Thistlecrack has produced an incredible performance to run out a brilliant winner of the prestigious King George VI Chase at Kempton.
The dominant force in the staying hurdle division last season and unbeaten in three previous starts over fences, the Colin Tizzard-trained eight-year-old was sent off the 11-10 favourite to see off four rivals including stablemate, last year’s winner Cue Card (5-4).
Dual King George winner Silviniaco Conti took the quintet along in the early stages, before Thistlecrack pulled his way to the front in the hands of Tom Scudamore.
Paddy Brennan was alive to the move aboard Cue Card and moved into second to set up the battle many had hoped for in the Boxing Day showpiece.
But Thistlecrack found another gear rounding the home turn, leaving Cue Card and the rest of the field trailing in his wake.
The bold-jumping market leader safely negotiated the remaining obstacles and a jubilant Scudamore punched the air as his mount passed the post 3-1/4 lengths clear.
It was a close thing for second, with Cue Card just holding the late rally of Silviniaco Conti.
“For the first time in my life I’m pretty speechless. It’s wonderful. I thought he’d win, but I never imagined he’d do it as easy as that,” Scudamore said:.
“He’s a phenomenal racehorse. He’s a pleasure to ride and a great credit to everyone. To win a King George on his fourth run over fences, it just shows the hard work everyone back at the yard has done and I’m so thrilled to be part of it.
“Between myself, my father (Peter) and grandfather (Michael) we’ve had about 33,000 winners and he’s the best one of the lot.”
Tizzard, who had earlier won the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase with Royal Vacation, admitted he had been nervous.
“That is the most nerve-racking thing I’ve ever watched,” he said.
“In the end it was just lovely and a fantastic performance by both horses.”
Thistlecrack was cut to 5-4 favourite for the Cheltenham Gold Cup with most firms, while Ladbrokes made him 4-5 from 3-1.