Talking Horses: Here's hoping Thistlecrack is able to run on Boxing Day

Chris Cook
Thistlecrack showing off at Newbury. The top-class chaser is recovering from a tendon injury. Photograph: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images

Today’s best bet, by Chris Cook

Just a few “disrupted fibres” and yet the tendon injury sustained by One For Arthur will be enough to keep the Grand National winner off our screens for a year. What a terrible pity and especially so for everyone at the Lucinda Russell yard where he was the standout talent.

It’s that time of year, I’m afraid, when jump racing fans must brace themselves for regular bits of bad news. Seemingly sturdy old beasts are tested for the first time in months and found to be crocked in some way. If, at the end of October, you do an “out for the season” search on Twitter, One For Arthur’s will not be the only name that comes up.

The one I’m anxious about just now is Thistlecrack and I should say right away that I know no more on the subject than anyone else who’s been reading the papers. But it’s a mere seven months since he was discovered to have a tendon tear and he will have to go into full work pretty soon if he is to make the King George on Boxing Day, which was specified as the target for his return on the very day that news broke of his injury. Tendon tears generally take longer than that to heal up.

At the end of August, his legs were reported to be “perfect”, which is great to hear. If the plan outlined that day is being followed, he’ll have done nothing more strenuous than “gentle road work” since. Here’s hoping his legs hold up when the work is stepped up next month. Until then, anyone taking 9-2 about his chance in the King George is being a bit reckless in my view.

Better odds of 7-1 are available about Heaven’s Guest (2.35) at Ascot this very day, although, in fairness, he hasn’t won for more than two years. But you will tend to get a losing run from time to time if you only turn up for valuable, big-field handicaps, which has been the way for Heaven’s Guest since 2013, when he started winning heritage handicaps.

He’s dropped 17lb from his peak rating and now descends into the lowest-value handicap he has contested for four and a half years. There was renewed promise last time when he was third of 17 at this track and I’m prepared to believe he now needs the step up to a mile offered by today’s contest. So there are a few reasons to be cheerful and I’ll give him a chance.

Tribute Act (4.20) failed horribly to cope with Goodwood last time but had looked firmly on the upgrade before that and the 100-30 is fair about her returning to that upward curve here. The step back in trip is probably helpful on this ground.

Also at 100-30, As De Mee (3.55) is the nap at Fontwell, with the useful claimer Bryony Frost taking over from Sean Bowen, who rode him last season and won the Grand Sefton on him. He skipped around here on his reappearance a year ago, albeit in a weaker race, and is well up to beating these rivals on a mark which still doesn’t look too stiff.

Tips for all Friday races

Ascot
2.00
Alaadel 2.35 Heaven’s Guest (nb) 3.10 The Feathered Nest 3.45 Raheen House 4.20 Tribute Act 4.55 Master Singer

Fontwell
2.10
Risk And Roll 2.45 Pickamix 3.20 Bright Tomorrow 3.55 As De Mee (nap) 4.30 Adarenna 5.05 Scoop The Pot

Hexham
2.25
Monsieur Arkadin 3.00 Soiesauvage 3.35 Princess Tara 4.10 Little Bruce 4.45 Forest Des Aigles 5.20 Bescot Springs

Chelmsford
5.45
Dance To Paris 6.15 Central City 6.45 Glendevon NR 7.15 Siege Of Boston 7.45 Alternate Route 8.15 Fantasy Gladiator 8.45 Kilbaha Lady 9.15 Diagnostic

By using Yahoo you agree that Yahoo and partners may use Cookies for personalisation and other purposes