Cheltenham Gold Cup favourite Thistlecrack has been ruled out for the rest of the season with a tendon tear.
He is the latest high-profile name to be ruled out of next month’s famous Cheltenham Festival through injury.
The dominant force in the staying hurdle division last year, the Colin Tizzard-trained nine-year-old won his first four starts over fences, including a scintillating victory in the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day.
Despite suffering a narrow defeat at the hands of Many Clouds in the Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham at the end of January, he remained at the head of the betting for the Gold Cup on March 17.
Tizzard said he hoped to get Thistlecrack back by Christmas.
“We had the leg scanned and he has a slight tear on his tendon,” Tizzard said.
The news comes as another huge blow to National Hunt racing’s showpiece meeting, with Thistlecrack joining the likes of Coneygree, Annie Power and Faugheen on the sidelines.
Despite Thistlecrack’s enforced absence, Tizzard still has a formidable hand for the Festival showpiece.
Paddy Power have made his stablemate Native River the new 5-2 favourite, just ahead of the Tizzard-trained Cue Card at 3-1.