Thistlecrack set to miss the Cheltenham Festival with recurring injury

Thistlecrack has yet to recover from the injury which forced him to bypass last month’s King George VI Chase at Kempton and looks set to miss the Cheltenham Festival.

An impressive winner of the Grade 1 Stayers' Hurdle in 2016 and successful later that year in the King George while still a novice over fences, Thistlecrack was not among the 40 entries revealed on Thursday for this year's Stayers'.

Trainer Colin Tizzard said the 12-year-old, who has not won since his King George triumph, could still race again despite his problems. 

He said: “Thistlecrack isn’t quite right at the moment. The problem we had just before Christmas hasn’t corrected itself yet and he’s still not sound so we are just going to hang fire for a while. 

“We thought it was an abscess, but it might be a bit more than that. I’m not going to say he won’t run again because he might. I’m still hoping to get him back this season.”

While Thistlecrack remains under a cloud, Emma Lavelle could not be happier with Paisley Park, who dominates the market at a top-priced 5-4 for the Stayers' Hurdle and will be bidding to become the fourth multiple winner of the race this century, following Big Buck's (four wins), Inglis Drever (three) and Baracouda (two).

She said: “He’s in great order and I can’t wait to run him a week on Saturday in the Cleeve [Hurdle]. It’s all worked out well for him in the build up and I’ve no regrets whatsoever about not running him at Ascot in the Long Walk as he’s done really well for the extra time." 

If The Cap Fits, second favourite for the Stayers' at around 8-1, is an intended runner next week, but Harry Fry warned he might not go there if conditions remain testing.

He said: “If The Cap Fits is due to go to for the Cleeve Hurdle, which would be his first run at the track, but it’s not guaranteed. If it’s bottomless he might go straight for the Festival rather than getting to the bottom of him in January.”

There are 19 Irish-trained entries for the race including 2018 winner Penhill, one of seven possible contenders for Willie Mullins, who has also entered mares Benie Des Dieux and Laurina, as well as Supreme winner Klassical Dream.

Last year's Cheltenham winners City Island and Minella Indo, who won the Ballymore and Albert Bartlett respectively, are also among the entries.

Benie Des Dieux, who fell with the race at her mercy last year, is among 36 entries for the Grade 1 Festival Mares' Hurdle.

She won the race in 2018 and has performed well this season, winning her first two starts. The nine-year-old could line up alongside Roksana, who took advantage of her fall last year for Dan Skelton, and Apple's Jade, who was successful in 2017.