Thistlecrack all set for Newbury comeback over hurdles next week

Thistlecrack is not only ready to return but also pick up the gauntlet at Grade 2 level over hurdles at Newbury a week on Friday.

Last season's leading novice chaser and one-time Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup favourite was given a glowing report by Joe Tizzard after he rode the nine-year-old in work on Thursday morning.

Thistlecrack suffered a slight tear in a tendon after meeting with his first defeat over fences in the epic duel with Many Clouds at Cheltenham in January.

"He felt really good," reported Tizzard. "This was the first time I've sat on him this year and he felt fit enough to win."

Thistlecrack, who had a racecourse gallop with Tom Scudamore at Wincanton 12 days ago, is primed for his comeback in the Ladbrokes Long Distance Hurdle, which he won in 2015 and in which he is due to face last year's winner, the race-fit Unowhatimeanharry.

Trainer Colin Tizzard added: "He couldn't go straight to the King George without a run and the season is starting to ramp up now."

Fox Norton is set for the Betfair Tingle Creek at Sandown a fortnight on Saturday, and Tizzard is not ruling out adding the Champion Chase runner-up to his 32Red King George team on Boxing Day.

Tizzard, who saddles three-time race winner Cue Card in the Betfair Chase at Haydock on Saturday, is also looking forward to another stable star, Native River, returning to action after Christmas, with the Cheltenham Gold Cup on his agenda.