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Racing

Thistlecrack well beaten on racing return by Beer Goggles

Thistlecrack had to settle for fifth on his eagerly-awaited reappearance as Beer Goggles caused a huge upset in the Ladbrokes Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury.

The Grade Two contest was billed as a match between last year's winner Unowhatimeanharry and the brilliant Thistlecrack, who was making his first competitive appearance since being beaten by the ill-fated Many Clouds at Cheltenham in January.

Richard Woollacott's Beer Goggles, a widely unconsidered 40-1 chance, was sent straight to the front by champion jockey Richard Johnson, with a strong-travelling Thistlecrack his nearest pursuer.

The race began in earnest from the home turn and it was soon clear the Colin Tizzard-trained 11-10 favourite Thistlecrack was emptying quickly, eventually weakening to finish well beaten in the hands of Tom Scudamore.

Unowhatimeanharry knuckled down after the final flight in an attempt to claw back the leader, but Beer Goggles was not for catching and came home two and a quarter lengths clear.

Johnson said: "We jokingly said beforehand 50-1 was being a bit rude about him.

"He's been in great form and he's a real improver. He ran a really good race last time under top-weight at Aintree (finished third).

"I think realistically, with Unowhatimeanharry and Thistlecrack in the race, you always felt it was going to be hard to beat them, but he jumped and travelled. I was enjoying myself and so was he.

"He stayed and jumped really well."

A clearly emotional Woollacott said: "It's fantastic. I'm nearly crying.

"I've got fantastic support, with everyone at home working so hard.

"We're so lucky now we've got a couple of owners with some slightly better horses.

"This is horse is wonderful. He's not big, but he's absolutely fantastic."

The Devon-based trainer went on: "There are so many ups and downs with racing and with horses. Everyone is trying to achieve the same thing - having good winners in good races - and they don't come around all the time.

"When we bought him he'd won off 104 and I said 'we'll have fun'. We didn't really expect him to keep going the way he has, but he's tough and sound, a lovely horse."

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Racing