'Sore' last out of Cheltenham
PHILIP FENTON'S dual Grade One-winning novice chaser Last Instalment has been agonisingly sidelined for the rest of the season.
The Gigginstown Stud-owned seven-year-old had excelled this season and although it was a small field, he put in a very impressive display when winning the Dr PJ Moriarty Chase at Leopardstown just last Sunday.
That success was his fourth consecutive win over the larger obstacles following on from his Topaz Fort Leney win over Christmas and maintained a 100pc record this term.
Unfortunately, yesterday, he was ruled out of the Cheltenham Festival for which he was prominent in the betting to be a fourth consecutive Irish-trained winner of the RSA Novice Chase.
There is no doubt that Last Instalment appeared a major player for Cheltenham next month when he was due to give us a mouth-watering clash with Grand Crus and Bobs Worth.
Fenton revealed: "He's not going to run again this season. He was a little sore after Leopardstown, so I thought we'd play it safe."
This latest blow highlights just how difficult a task trainers face to keep horses sound.
Last Instalment's setback is another blow for Fenton, who was forced to give Dunguib a season off, while Gigginstown House Stud have been unable to unleash their 2010 RSA Chase winner, Weapon's Amnesty, since he won at Cheltenham.
Gigginstown House Stud's woes were extended yesterday, as Quito De La Roque was the most notable absentee from the Cheltenham Gold Cup at the latest forfeit stage.
Quito De Le Roque missed the Hennessy Gold Cup due to a bad scope and Colm Murphy clearly feels he wouldn't win the race against time to get him to Cheltenham in top shape four weeks on Friday.
Jessies Dream is another who was recently ruled out for the season having missed last week's Hennessy Gold Cup, and he has been off since finishing second in the RSA Chase last year behind Bostons Angel, another who was withdrawn from the Cheltenham showpiece yesterday.
Now just five Irish horses remain in the Cheltenham Gold Cup next month, Quel Esprit is joined by stable companions Apt Approach and The Midnight Club, while Mouse Morris has left in China Rock. And although unlikely to run, Magnanimity was left in among the final 26 for Dessie Hughes and Gigginstown.
All four defending champions remain on course to regain their championship crowns with Long Run, Sizing Europe, Big Buck's and Hurricane Fly all headlining their respective races.
Long Run will put his credentials on the line at Newbury tomorrow, while the other three have all put the finishing touches to their competitive preparations with now just four weeks to the off.
Incidentally, bookmakers Paddy Power go 18/1 on all four champions from last year to go on and repeat the same feat, 11/4 for three to win the same race, 11/8 for two, 5/2 for one and 16/1 that Hurricane Fly, Sizing Europe, Big Buck's and Long Run are all overturned.
Paddy Power have also priced up the Gold Cup without the top two of Long Run and Kauto Star. Midnight Chase is the 7/2 favourite, while Grand Crus is just 4/1, despite also having the RSA as a possible target. Irish hope Quel Esprit can be backed at 9/2 and Lexus Chase winner and Grand National top weight Synchronised is an 11/2 shot.