Dynaste first star absentee
While the Cheltenham Festival hype continues to increase as the days count down to March 10, yesterday brought about the first major absentee from the meeting with news that David Pipe’s Dynaste would be out of action until the autumn.
Last year’s Ryanair Chase winner was gearing up to defend his crown again this season and enjoyed a very satisfactory run over an unfavourable distance and on ground that wouldn’t suit when finishing third behind Gold Cup contender and Hennessy winner Many Clouds last month, but after returning sore from that outing, it was confirmed yesterday that the nine-year-old wouldn’t make it back to Cheltenham this season.
The ruling out of big names from major races and festivals is par for the course in horseracing and with just under five weeks to go to the start of the meeting, Pipe’s stable star is unlikely to be the last high-profile name to fall by the wayside.
“It’s very disappointing and he’ll leave a big hole as far as our Cheltenham is concerned, that’s for sure, but we’re thankful for what he did for us last season and hopefully he’ll be back better than ever,” said his regular jockey Tom Scudamore.
The news came on the back of trainer Gordon Elliott stating that his Ryanair Chase favourite Don Cossack was “bouncing” ahead of his big assignment next month.
Bookmakers BoyleSports are the first firm to go ‘Non-runner/No-bet’ on the Ryanair and they are also best priced 4/1 about Don Cossack who is three from three this season, with other market principals Cue Card and Champagne Fever also cut as a result of Dynaste’s absence.
Trainer Willie Mullins has yet to confirm where Champagne Fever will run at the Cheltenham Festival after disappointing the trainer in the King George and then falling at the last in the Kinloch Brae when challenging with Don Cossack. But with Dynaste now out and Sire De Grugy set to stake his Champion Stakes claims on Saturday, Mullins is likely to be still very much mulling over his options for the two-time Festival winner, who is expected to appear among the Clonmel entries later today.
After Down Royal became the first Irish meeting to be cancelled since March due to the weather on Wednesday, todays card at Clonmel also fell victim of the frost and will now take place on Tuesday where Champagne Fever is a possible runner in the 2m4f Patsy O’Brien Memorial Chase.
Meanwhile, Champagne Fever’s sire Stowaway, who also sired last Sunday’s Tied Cottage Chase winner and Ryanair Chase runner-up Hidden Cyclone, died this week aged 21.
The popular sire died during routine exercise at Whytemount Stud where he had been a flag-bearer having also been responsible for Mart Lane, Outlander and Western Leader.
English racing has also been hit hard by the weather and although a decision on both Down Royal and Clonmel was made prior to declarations, the prospect of seeing novice chaser Josses Hill was short-lived as Doncaster’s meeting for today was abandoned shortly after declarations were closed yesterday.
Nicky Henderson’s Josses Hill, who is the clear second favourite behind odds-on shot Un De Sceaux for the Arkle next month, was due to face four rivals in the opening novice chase this afternoon but Henderson will now have to look at alternative options for the seven-year-old who is one from two over fences.