Thistlecrack heads cracking support card on Hennessy Gold Cup day at Newbury tomorrow

Thistlecrack (Colin Tizzard/Tom Scudamore) is the headline act of the strong supporting races at Newbury on day two of the bet365 Festival, Saturday, November 26, as he bids to maintain his unbeaten record over fences in the £35,000 Grade Two bet365 Novices’ Chase (12.55pm, 2m 7f 86y).

The brilliant World Hurdle winner is already the clear favourite for this season’s Cheltenham Gold Cup after two facile successes over fences in minor contests at Chepstow and Cheltenham, though his jumping was not as good at the latter track

Thistlecrack will get more experience tomorrow when his four opponents are led by chasing debutant Ibis Du Rheu (Paul Nicholls/Nick Scholfield), who captured the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham in March, and recent course scorer Bigbadjohn (Rebecca Curtis/Jonathan Moore).

Dusky Legend

Exciting five-year-old Ozzie The Oscar (Philip Hobbs/Richard Johnson) bids for his fifth win in six starts in the £45,000 Listed bet365 Intermediate Hurdle (2.40pm) over two miles.

The eight-strong line-up also includes highly-regarded mare Omessa Has (Nicky Henderson/Jeremiah McGrath) and the progressive Theligny (Tim Vaughan/Alan Johns), unbeaten in three starts this season, plus Tommy Silver (Paul Nicholls/Sean Bowen) and Who Dares Wins (Alan King/Wayne Hutchinson) who were both classy juvenile hurdlers last season.

The limited handicap was won by subsequent Champion Hurdle hero Rock On Ruby in 2011.

The £40,000 Sir Peter O´Sullevan Memorial Handicap Chase (1.30pm, 2m 6f 93y) has attracted an excellent field of 17, while the £35,000 bet365 Handicap Hurdle (12 runners, 2.05pm, 2m 4f 118y) and the £35,000 bet365 Handicap Chase (11 runners, 3.45pm, 2m 92y) look just as competitive.

Racing gets underway at 12.20pm with the £23,500 Listed Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle over two miles. Second-season novice Dusky Legend (Alan King/Wayne Hutchinson, pictured right), who was runner-up to Limini at the Cheltenham Festival, and La Bague Au Roi (Warren Greatrex/Harry Bannister) star in a select field of six.

The climax of what promises to be a wonderful afternoon is the £200,000 Hennessy Gold Cup (3.10pm, 20 runners). Taking place over three and a quarter miles, the very prestigious and valuable handicap chase is being run for the 60th time and has been won by some of the greats including Mill House, Arkle, Burrough Hill Lad, One Man and more recently Denman.

Native River (Colin Tizzard/Richard Johnson) is the 5/1 favourite with bet365 for this year’s race. The line-up also includes RSA Chase victor Blaklion (Nigel Twiston-Davies/Ryan Hatch), Vyta Du Roc (Nicky Henderson/Tom O’Brien) and last year’s emphatic winner Smad Place (Alan King/Wayne Hutchinson).

Newbury’s new-look bet365 Festival commences today with a seven-race programme headlined by the £50,000 G2 bet365 Long Distance Hurdle (2.10pm, nine runners) over three miles. World Hurdle fancy Ballyoptic (Nigel Twiston-Davies/Ryan Hatch) bids to get back on track after falling at Wetherby on his comeback.

Andy Clifton, Head of Communications at Newbury Racecourse, said today: “We have perfect weather today for the start of the two-day bet365 Festival which has tremendous racing throughout.

“Tomorrow’s card has everything racegoers could wish for, with the 60th running of the iconic Hennessy Gold Cup and very strong supporting races which include the third appearance of the mighty Thistlecrack over fences.

“Racegoers can purchase tickets on the day and we look forward to welcoming everyone to Newbury for a day to remember.”