Cheltenham 2017: Eight stars that will miss this year’s Festival
Ireland’s top trainers badly hit as they prepare for National Hunt’s biggest week
Jockey Ruby Walsh on Annie Power after victory in the Champion Hurdle at the 2016 Cheltenham Festival. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho
It is just five weeks until the white flag is raised for the start of the Cheltenham Festival but the build-up to the greatest National Hunt meeting on the calendar has been overshadowed by those horses that will not make it to the Cotswolds in March.
Here is a list of eight of the top guns will not feature at the Festival
FAUGHEEN (Champion Hurdle) – Trainer: Willie Mullins
A stress fracture finally put paid to any chance of Faugheen trying to repeat his Champion Hurdle success of 2015 after several niggly problems had kept him off the track since he won the Irish equivalent in January 2016.
ANNIE POWER (Champion Hurdle) – Trainer: Willie Mullins
Last year’s Champion Hurdle heroine was nearing a possible return to action later this month when she suffered a leg injury forcing trainer Willie Mullins to scrap plans for the defence of her crown, and perhaps the rest of the campaign.
MIN (Arkle Trophy) – Trainer: Willie Mullins
In the whole scheme of things a bruise is extremely minor, but one has come at the wrong time for Min. His proposed rematch with Altior, who beat him in last year’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, is now off the agenda.
DON COSSACK (Gold Cup) – Trainer: Gordon Elliott
Gordon Elliott had to call time on Don Cossack’s career last month after the 2016 Gold Cup hero sustained a recurrence of a tendon injury when back in training with a view to a bid for a repeat triumph.
CONEYGREE (Gold Cup) – Trainer: Mark Bradstock
Mark and Sara Bradstock decided not to enter Coneygree for this year’s Gold Cup as the 2015 winner had not recovered sufficiently from the problem that ruled him out of the King George.
SPRINTER SACRE (Champion Chase) – Trainer: Nicky Henderson
The tip-top chaser was retired after picking up a leg injury in November. He suffered an irregular heartbeat at the end of 2013 that kept him on the sidelines for well over a year, yet Nicky Henderson and his team had worked wonders to get the 2013 winner to win the showpiece again in 2016.
VALSEUR LIDO (Ryanair/Gold Cup) – Trainer: Henry de Bromhead
Henry de Bromhead’s charge made quite an impression in winning a Down Royal Grade One by 11 lengths on his seasonal bow, but he could miss the rest of the season after sustaining an injury on the gallops last month.
AR MAD (Champion Chase/Ryanair) – Trainer: Gary Moore
Gary Moore decided not to rush Ar Mad back into action at the Festival, where he had a couple of options, after a setback forced the seven-year-old to bypass next week’s Betfair Ascot Chase. He now has Aintree or Punchestown on his agenda.