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  • 15:35 Cleeve Hurdle 2m 7f 213y

  • (Grade 2) £60,000 added 5yo+ 7 ran
  • Winner £34,170 2nd £12,822 3rd £6,420 4th £3,198
  • Going: Heavy
  • Surface: Turf
    Weighed In
  • Winning time: 6m 28.00s
  • Off time: 15:36:40 Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham: Thistlecrack on course

Last Updated: 29/01/16 3:01pm

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Thistlecrack isn't expected to be troubled by Cheltenham's undulations

Thistlecrack isn't expected to be troubled by Cheltenham's undulations

View from connections ahead of the Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham on Saturday.

Jockey Tom Scudamore can see no reason why Thistlecrack should not be as effective at Cheltenham as he is elsewhere ahead of the Cleeve Hurdle.

Colin Tizzard's charge has quickly made up into the leading staying hurdler on either side of the Irish Sea with wins at Newbury and Ascot this season.

His only real blot on a hugely progressive profile is when he was beaten a long way on this card last year in the Neptune Trial, but Scudamore is happy to put that down to an off-day.

"He's a horse I've always thought a lot of and he'd obviously improved a good deal from Newbury to Ascot," said the rider.

"I hope he'll step up again but he was very impressive at Ascot.

"Reve De Sivola at Ascot in deep ground has been nearly unbeatable. He'd won three Long Walks so we were very pleased but I wouldn't say we were surprised with how he did it.

"To beat him like that was very impressive.

"I don't think anything about the Cheltenham form. He's only run there once and it was just an off day, he was just below par, simple as that.

"I don't really like comparing horses. Dynaste and Grands Crus were smart hurdlers but they didn't win Grade Ones over hurdles and they are all different horses in their own right."

Tizzard said: "I think he's going into the race like the one at Ascot. He is a big, strong horse that has been brilliant the last four races and I can't see a reason why he can't run a big race.

"Camping Ground, to be fair, gave us a stone when he beat us in the Imperial Cup but I think Thistlecrack has improved three stones over his next four races since going over three miles.

"I think Camping Ground will have to be a very good horse to beat Thistlecrack. That is just not the trainer saying it, but it is from everyone who has seen him do in his last four runs."

Thistlecrack's main opponent is likely to be Robert Walford's Camping Ground, a hugely impressive winner of the Relkeel Hurdle on New Year's Day.

He faces another step up in class and goes up in trip to three miles for the first time.

"I take confidence from the trainer, who is very confident that Camping Ground can get the trip. He saw out two miles, five well last time and this is another three furlongs but he will love the ground so conditions are very much in his favour. I'd be very hopeful."
Leighton Aspell

"We kind of always knew he would do something like that (win the Relkeel) on the course but it took us a while to get there," said Walford.

"It was a good race but Cole Harden probably hated the ground. The second, Lil Rockerfeller, ran really well under top weight at Ascot last week so that made the form look good.

"It was a solid race without being a top-class race.

"I expect him to run very well, can we beat Thistlecrack? I don't know, we'll see.

"Thistlecrack looks very, very good, Paul Nicholls' horse, Ptit Zig, coming back to hurdles could be difficult to beat, also.

"I don't think Camping Ground's a plodder and plodder's want heavy ground. He's got plenty of boot and I think better ground will be an advantage to him.

"This weekend it will be heavy, but I'm not worried about it. I wouldn't swap him for any horse, I think the world of him."

Leighton Aspell is the man on board and said: "It was a lovely performance the last day. It's another step up in trip and he is taking on the World Hurdle favourite in Thistlecrack.

"I take confidence from the trainer, who is very confident that he can get the trip.

"He has also been given a Champion Hurdle entry in case this doesn't work but I think Robert Walford knows in his mind where he wants to go.

"He saw out two miles, five well last time and this is another three furlongs but he will love the ground so conditions are very much in his favour.

"I'd be very hopeful."

The Nicholls-trained Ptit Zig is next best on ratings but after failing to get round the last two times over fences he could be looking for a confidence boost.

Neil Mulholland's The Young Master was a close fourth to Wakanda last time out and is another back over hurdles, having been chasing.

Part-owner Robert Waley-Cohen said: "He needs to get a run into him somewhere and this is the best opportunity for him.

"He definitely won't be going for the Grand National in 2016 as Neil is very adamant that for a seven-year-old the race is too early.

"One year on, though, he might be a really nice prospect for it."

Knockara Beau caused one of the biggest shocks in recent years when beating Big Buck's in this race two years ago at 66-1 and is back again, with The Romford Pele reverting to smaller obstacles for Rebecca Curtis.

It is a similar story with Irish challenger Guitar Pete, who has been competing over fences since October 2014.

"He is very well in himself and we just thought that going back over hurdles at some point during the season could give us another option with him," said trainer Sandra Hughes.

"We think he will stay three miles."

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