Thistlecrack was unraced until the age of five, making a belated racecourse debut in a Wincanton bumper, finishing third for Joe Tizzard. He would spend another year off the track before returning in the same race in 2014, this time taking the spoils by three lengths. A decent run in December 2014 in a Listed bumper at Ascot was the perfect springboard for his novice hurdling campaign.
That hurdling career got off to the perfect start, bolting up by nine lengths back at Wincanton in a decent novice hurdle. The comprehensive victory was enough to convince Tizzard to move Thistlecrack into Grade 2 company, but was well beaten in that race at Cheltenham. Three subsequent runs followed including a good fifth place in the Imperial Cup at Sandown, but it was his effort in the Grade 1 Doom Bar Sefton Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree in 2015 that made racing fans take note of this seven-year-old gelding.
Rated a 25/1 outsider, he cruised into contention under Tom Scudamore and despite never having raced over three miles, Thistlecrack relished the stamina test and pulled 13 lengths clear of future Grade 1 performers including Vyta Du Roc, Alpha Des Obeaux, Blaklion and Grand National winner One For Arthur.
He was subsequently beaten by Willie Mullins’ Killultagh Vic in a Punchestown Grade 1 but that was arguably a career best until his sophomore hurdling campaign. Thistlecrack made a winning seasonal reappearance in 2015 in the Grade 2 Long Distance Hurdle, before landing a first Open Grade 1 at Ascot in the Long Walk Hurdle, seeing off the likes of Reve De Sivola and Saphir Du Rheu.
Further success followed at Cheltenham in January 2016 before stepping up in class again to take the World Hurdle in emphatic fashion. Always travelling the best, Scudamore produced Thistlecrack (Evens fav) at the second last hurdle and he scooted clear to win by a convincing seven lengths from Alpha Des Obeaux. He then backed that up with another seven-length demolition at Aintree in the Grade 1 Stayers Hurdle to complete an unbeaten season before being sent novice chasing.
He would make no mistake in his first three starts over fences, winning easily at Chepstow (1/6), Cheltenham (1/7) and Newbury (1/8) before his owners had a decision to make. They opted to send the novice chaser to the King George VI Chase instead of the easier Feltham Novices’ Chase on the same card at Kempton, a move that proved to be a masterstroke.
Despite having just three chasing runs prior to the King George, Thistlecrack went off the 11/10 favourite ahead of stablemate Cue Card. After allowing Paul Nicholls’ Silviniaco Conti to lead for a circuit, Scudamore sent Thistlecrack to the front and that was where he would stay. He had everything off the bridle turning for home and soon went eight lengths clear, before popping over the last and easing Thistlecrack down in effortless fashion. It was a performance for the ages for a horse having just his fourth run over the bigger obstacles.
Remarkably, Thistlecrack has not managed to get his head in front since that run. He was beaten in the Grade 2 Cotswold Chase by the ill-fated Many Clouds on his next start and didn’t make it to Cheltenham in 2017.
Since then, the Tizzard team have had multiple injury issues with Thistlecrack, but did return to close to his brilliant best in the 2018 King George, finishing a close up second behind Clan Des Obeaux. He was pulled up in the 2019 Cheltenham Gold Cup though, having struggled to go the pace throughout.