The lightly-raced eight-year-old was reasonably promising in younger days, but it is only since he took a significant step up to three miles that he really began to reveal his true ability.
On his first start at the trip, in a Grade One novice event at Aintree, he trounced a 16-runner field by 13 lengths and more.
He took another step forward when a somewhat unlucky second behind Killultagh Vic in another Grade One, this time at Punchestown.
His season ended there but his progress did not, as he began this term with another fluent victory at Newbury.
Add easy wins at Ascot and at Cheltenham and you reveal the profile of an upwardly mobile stayer.
While most of his successes have been on testing ground, he handled decent ground at Punchestown and shouldn’t have too many issues with today’s conditions.
He looked to have the measure of Alpha Des Obeaux when that one departed at the last flight at Aintree, in May, and has since improved significantly.
Barring ground concerns, there’s little reason to believe he won’t confirm that form, which looks good enough to land this prize.
Alpha Des Obeaux is second favourite for this race, and will be hard to keep out of the frame. He hasn’t been the most punter-friendly horse, with five runner-finishes and a fall in his six runs prior to his recent and long overdue victory at Gowran Park.
It should be noted that four of those second-place finishes and that fall in the race won by Thistlecrack were all in Grade One company.
It could be argued he won despite the ground at Gowran, and will improve for livelier conditions.
On official figures he has quite a bit to find with the Tizzard runner, but looks sure to reach the frame.
There have been some tremendous training achievements this week, and none will eclipse yesterday’s Champion Chase success for Nicky Henderson.
But, Paul Nicholls would deserve considerable kudos were Aux Ptits Soins to win this not having run since landing the Coral Cup at this meeting 12 months ago.
Nicholls, who doesn’t need to be told what it takes to win a Gold Cup, has mentioned this fellow as a potential contender in future seasons.
As we have little local form to go on, that tells us the regard in which he is held.
Nevertheless, it’s difficult to have confidence in him taking his first step into this grade.
Martello Tower won the Albert Bartlett at this meeting last year and ran reasonably in defeat behind Prince Of Scars and Alpha Des Obeaux in his two starts this term. He remains open to improvement, but this also looks a big ask for him.
One horse which will certainly appreciate the drying ground is reigning champ Cole Harden.
When Warren Greatrex’s horse ran out a ready winner of a modest renewal, it came off the back of a below-par effort on testing ground.
He arrives back after a similar display, and again much better can be expected.
Thistlecrack has the form in the book, has scope for improvement, and can confirm what this season’s form has suggested — that he is the best staying hurdler in these islands.
- See page 13 for interview with Alpha Des Obeaux trainer Mouse Morris