Thistlecrack ready for return to fray
Colin Tizzard is confident Thistlecrack is fit enough to do himself justice on his eagerly-anticipated return to action in the Ladbrokes Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury today.
It is two years since the imposing gelding kicked off an unbeaten campaign in this Grade Two event, going on to win the Long Walk at Ascot, the World Hurdle at Cheltenham and the Liverpool Hurdle at Aintree to confirm himself the undoubted star of the staying hurdle division.
He had his attentions turned to fences last season, winning four of his five races including a stunning victory in the King George VI Chase at Kempton, but he has been sidelined by injury since being beaten by the ill-fated Many Clouds at Cheltenham in January.
Tizzard said: "Thistlecrack has done plenty of work and is ready to run. He's bound to improve, but he has been on to go for some time now and we're very happy with him. He had a jump on the grass on Wednesday and he's ready to get started."
The Dorset handler is under no illusions about the task facing his charge, with Harry Fry's defending champion Unowhatimeanharry in opposition.
The JP McManus-owned Unowhatimeanharry has won 10 of his 11 starts since joining Fry, suffering his only defeat when third in last season's Stayers' Hurdle.
Clear Skies, meanwhile, bids for a four-timer in the featured Irishinjuredjockeys.com Handicap at Dundalk this evening.
The Sea The Stars half-sister to Derby winner Motivator has progressed well in recent weeks, building up a winning sequence over the extended 10 furlongs, and this step up to a mile-and-a-half should prove no problem.
My Direction is also in good form, having won twice over course and distance, while Abraham and Commander Won are other recent winners to consider but Clear Skies gets the vote for Aidan O'Brien and his son Donnacha.
Limerick stages the jumps action, with the Britain v Ireland Amateur Riders Handicap Hurdle the highlight .
Sam Davies-Thomas, Page Fuller, James King and Becky Smith represent the visitors, while the home team consists of Eoin O'Brien, JJ O'Neill, Maxine O'Sullivan and Shauna Larkin.
Larkin may just hold the edge after picking up a decent ride aboard Dromore Lad and he also has good claims in the concluding bumper aboard the Charles Byrnes-trained Minnies Secret.
Willie Mullins' powerful string has moved up a gear in the past few weeks, and the champion trainer has a couple of strong contenders with Laurina and Sympa Des Flos in the maiden hurdles.