Thistlecrack produced a remarkable performance when running away with a strongly-run renewal of the Ryanair World Hurdle at Cheltenham this afternoon.
The even money favourite was always travelling powerfully under jockey Tom Scudamore and was still on the bridle turning for home, having seen off every one of his rivals bar Alpha Des Obeaux, who was being asked for his effort as the pair hit the home straight.
However, he had no answer to Thistlecrack's power as the winner surged clear on the run to the last and he powered clear up the hill to record an effortless seven length victory.
Trainer Colin Tizzard was wreathed in smiles following the race.
"Thistlecrack has been like that all season and it is lovely to get him here in the same form," said the trainer.
"He is huge but was not always like that. John and Heather (Snook - owners) have been very patient with him and he has grown into himself the last 12 months. He has gone from a very nice horse to a superstar.
"There has been pressure last three weeks. Every day is another one ticked off. You have to do the work with the horses - you can't just trot them around the roads - and every day is pressure."
Joe Tizzard, Colin's son and assistant trainer, was almost speechless immediately after the race.
"He's brilliant isn't he? Absolutely brilliant," said Tizzard junior.
"He was always in the right place and travelled well. It's unbelievable. I'm a bit shell-shocked actually. It's horrible though - I don't like watching to be honest.
"I never used to get this nervous when I was riding. It's different when you're not in control though. There was no moment when I was anxious though - he was brilliant."
SCUDAMORE ON CLOUD NINE AFTER THISTLE MAKES HIS RIVALS CRACK
Thistlecrack was a facile winner of the Ryanair World Hurdle for Colin Tizzard and Tom Scudamore. The eight-year-old steadily made progress through the field before cruising into the lead under a motionless Scudamore to score by seven lengths.
Scudamore, registering his first success in the Ryanair World Hurdle, said: "I knew sitting there during the race how well I was travelling. All the way through the race he was travelling well and took me into the race nicely and jumped superbly. That was a thrill of a lifetime. I have always held him in high regard. Colin and Joe Tizzard have done a wonderful job in getting him here in this form.
"He has improved with every run. I was always very confident. I have a lot of confidence in my fella. It was all about getting him in the right positions and, once we jumped the last, it was fantastic. What a racehorse.
"He jumps because he is a proper horse, I am able to travel and use him all the way through. If you enjoy watching it, you enjoy riding him! I have ridden some very good horses like The Giant Bolster and Grands Crus but he is the best. How he looked was how it felt, it was a wonderful thrill.
"To be able to ride a horse like that, it was very special. It was wonderful. I have never ridden anything like him. They were going fast enough in a championship race and, at the top of the hill, there was only three in it and then very quickly there was only one in it. He's just outstanding.
Scudamore was full of praise for the Tizzard team. He commented: "Thistlecrack had one run at six, a few more last season so Colin has done a fantastic job and absolute wonders with him. I am just the bloke who does the steering but I am sure he will jump a fence in time and whether they want to it is up to them but he is a World Hurdle winner and he is outstanding.
"I was very calm before the race. I am older and wiser and you think these things will never happen. To have a winner like this here is very special. Cheltenham is like nothing else, it is a brilliant arena."
Scudamore added: "I spent my whole life running around in these races, whether it be the Gold Cup, Champion Chase, Champion Hurdle, and now I finally have a horse like this. It is unbelievable. I never realised it would be so easy."
ALPHA CANNOT BEATA THISTLECRACK
Two horses proved utterly dominant from the home turn in the Ryanair World Hurdle, yet Thistlecrack found more power than runner-up Alpha Des Obeaux.
The Mouse Morris-trained Alpha Des Obeaux came home seven lengths behind the winner, yet was 22 lengths clear of third-placed Bobs Worth, the 11-year-old former Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup winner who started at 33/1 and ran another terrific race. Last year's winner, Cole Harden, had to settle for fourth.
Morris said of his 8/1 shot: "The winner is a hell of a machine, and I've no excuses. My fellow had a super ride [from Bryan Cooper], jumped well and ran his heart out. We'll certainly consider running him at Aintree or Punchestown."
Malcolm Kimmins, a joint-owner in Bobs Worth, said: "It might have been his last race, but who knows? We made no pre-race plan, because Nicky (Henderson) knew he had him so well and the ground has come right for him. He hasn't let us down."
David Bass, who rode Bobs Worth, said: "It was a privilege to ride him - he just loves galloping up that hill and ran a blinder. The two in front are very good, but he's beaten last year's winner. Nicky has proved this week that he can get an older horse back."
Warren Greatrex, the trainer of Cole Harden, said: "He ran his heart out, but the ground was perhaps a bit slower than last year. Gavin [Sheehan] said he felt great, but couldn't get away from them. He was passed late on for third, but I can't knock my horse. I wouldn't be surprised if he goes chasing next year - he's schooled over fences a couple of times."
Gavin Sheehan, who rode fourth Cole Harden, said: "I'm not disappointed - he ran a cracker and there were good horses in front of me. We'll have another go at Aintree, and who knows on quicker ground. It was a step in the right direction."
3.30pm Ryanair World Hurdle
1 Thistlecrack Colin Tizzard 11st 10lb Tom Scudamore EvensFav 2 Alpha des Obeaux (FR) Mouse Morris, Ireland 11st 10lb Bryan Cooper 8/1 3 Bobs Worth (IRE) Nicky Henderson 11st 10lb David Bass 33/1 4 Cole Harden (IRE) (Tongue Strap) Warren Greatrex 11st 10lb Gavin Sheehan 5 Aux Ptits Soins (FR) Paul Nicholls 11st 10lb Nick Scholfield 6 Saphir du Rheu (FR) Paul Nicholls 11st 10lb Sam Twiston-Davies 7 Martello Tower (IRE) Margaret Mullins, Ireland 11st 10lb Adrian Heskin 8 Whisper (FR) Nicky Henderson 11st 10lb Nico de Boinville PU At Fishers Cross (IRE) (Blinkers) Rebecca Curtis 11st 10lb Barry Geraghty PU Kilcooley (IRE) (Tongue Strap) Charlie Longsdon 11st 10lb Richard Johnson PU Knockara Beau (IRE) George Charlton 11st 10lb Liam Treadwell PU Lieutenant Colonel (Tongue Strap) Sandra Hughes, Ireland 11st 10lb Davy Russell
12 ran Non-Runner: Un Temps Pour Tout (IRE) (Other) Distances: 7, 22, 1¾, 9, 4½, ¾, ¾ Breeder: Robin & Scarlet Knipe Breeding: b g Kayf Tara - Ardstown (Ardross) Tote Win: £1.70 Places: £1.10,£2.70,£6.90 Exacta: £9.80
Colin Tizzard Born - January 7, 1956
Background - The second son of Leslie and Marjorie Tizzard, Colin grew up on the family farm in Milborne Port, Dorset, enjoying hunting, shooting and fishing. Dairy farming and horses have always been his passions and he has made a success of both enterprises.
He was a member of the Pony Club before riding with some success in point-to-points and later under-rules as an amateur.
He started training two point-to-point horses in 1995 for his son Joe to ride and has since built up his string to be one of the leading yards in the south west. He has sent out over 400 winners and is enjoying his best season in terms of prize money.
Joe was a Jump jockey for almost 20 years and celebrated four victories at The Festival, headed by Cue Card's successes in the 2010 Weatherbys Champion Bumper and 2013 Ryanair Chase. Joe, who rode over 600 winners, now acts as an assistant trainer to his father.
Colin's wife Pauline and daughter Kim (assistant trainer) are also involved in the training business, which took a further step up in September, 2015 with the transfer of the horses from Venn Farm on the London Road just outside Milborne Port to new premises to the north at nearby Spurles Farm where there are 50 stables.
First winner under Rules - The Jogger, Wincanton, May 7, 1996
Cheltenham Festival wins (5) 2010 - Weatherbys Champion Bumper (Cue Card) 2011 - Johnny Henderson Grand Annual (Oiseau de Nuit) 2013 - Ultima Handicap Chase (Golden Chieftain), Ryanair Chase (Cue Card) 2016 - Ryanair World Hurdle (2015 Thistlecrack)
Grade One wins: Betfair Chase - 2013 & 2015 Cue Card King George VI Chase - 2015 Cue Card Long Walk Hurdle - 2015 Thistlecrack Sefton Novices' Hurdle - 2015 Thistlecrack Betfair Ascot Chase - 2013 Cue Card Feltham Novices' Chase - 2007 Joe Lively
9th Festival win for jockey Tom Scudamore (2nd of 2016 Festival)
BetBright Cup: Great Britain 10, Ireland 8
The World Hurdle is the championship race for staying hurdlers and is run over 3 miles on the Thursday of the Cheltenham Festival.