Cheltenham 2016: growing list of absent friends at festival
A number of big guns will be absent through injury including Faugheen and Arctic Fire
Arctic Fire is one of a number of big names set to miss the Cheltenham Festival. Photograph: Inpho
With the news last year’s Champion Hurdle runner-up Arctic Fire has suffered an injury and will not be at Cheltenham, we look at six other big names with genuine Festival hopes to have been ruled out of the showpiece meeting so far:
1. FAUGHEEN, Champion Hurdle (Willie Mullins)
Just minutes before stablemate Annie Power made her comeback at Punchestown, punters and bookmakers alike were coming to terms with the fact the ‘Machine’ would not be defending his Champion Hurdle crown after a suspensory ligament problem was revealed. A really tough pill to swallow for all concerned, but the good news is he should be back as good as ever next season.
2. CONEYGREE, Gold Cup (Mark Bradstock)
Became the first novice since Captain Christy in 1974 to win the Gold Cup and enjoyed the perfect comeback with a Sandown stroll in November. But just when the big question was would he go for the King George, the racing world was rocked when it emerged he had suffered a hock injury that would keep him out for the season.
3. KILLULTAGH VIC, JLT Novices’ Chase (Willie Mullins)
Conqueror of World Hurdle hotpot Thistlecrack at Punchestown in April, Killultagh Vic had won both his starts since switching to fences, most recently benefiting from a remarkable Ruby Walsh recovery after a bad blunder to claim a Grade Two contest at Leopardstown last month. Killultagh Vic would have been bidding for a second consecutive Cheltenham victory, having won the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle last year in the hands of Luke Dempsey.
4. AR MAD, Arkle Trophy (Gary Moore)
If any horse was going to serve it up to hotpot Douvan, it looked like this bold-jumping six-year-old would be the one. Bagged a Grade One at Sandown in December and took the scalp of Vaniteux at Christmas, before passing a ‘left-handed’ test at Plumpton in style on Monday — just hours before being found to be lame.
5. SIMONSIG, Queen Mother Champion Chase/Ryanair Chase (Nicky Henderson)
Twice a winner at the Festival, the dashing grey was sidelined after winning the 2013 Arkle until running a super race over hurdles at Aintree in November. That should have put him right for the Tingle Creek Chase in December, but he was a late defector with a splint problem and connections have now conceded defeat in the battle to make Cheltenham.
6. JEZKI, World Hurdle (Jessica Harrington)
Won the Champion Hurdle in 2014 and was starting to look a real force in the staying hurdle division last spring, winning at Aintree and Punchestown, beating Hurricane Fly. But a problem was discovered in September, with heat in a leg, and the decision was made he would not return for this campaign.