A day to forget yesterday for two of the leading yards as the Cheltenham Festival approaches. Dynaste for the Pipe team and Champagne West for Philip Hobbs’ yard are both out for the season.
Last year’s Ryanair winner looked set to try and defend his crown in March after failing to win the BetBright Cup Chase. But it seems that the race took its toll on the grey, leaving him with an injury that curtails his season. Pipe revealed: “Unfortunately Dynaste finished very sore behind after his race at the Cheltenham Trials meeting last month. We have decided to call time with him for this season as it's far too close to Cheltenham and Aintree. It's nothing serious but he's too good to risk and the chances are good for him to be back for a full season come next autumn."
It’s particularly frustrating as the horse appeared in the form of his life. A terrific comeback run in the Betfair Chase at Haydock was followed by arguably a lifetime best performance when chasing home Siliviniaco Conti in the King George. Staying on strongly that day, the run clearly tempted connections to have a crack at the extended trip at Cheltenham in January. To be fair he ran a great race but was unable to peg back Many Clouds and Smad Place up the punishing hill.
It’s the second year running that the Ryanair winner has failed to return for the highlight of the National Hunt season. Just weeks away from last year’s Festival, Cue Card was struck down by a pelvic injury. Thought to have pulled muscles, further investigation revealed the extent of the problem. He too had looked to be at his very best having won the Betfair Chase and then come so close to taking the King George.
The injury to Champagne West is a blow for the Minehead team but he is expected to make a full recovery. He’d looked a decent each-way bet for the RSA Chase on the back of several impressive displays. His novice chase campaign had begun with a win at Cheltenham in November, when he defeated the more experienced Colour Squadron. He won again at the track in December before meeting with his first defeat over fences in January when running into the talented Ptit Zig.
Despite those performances his jumping had looked patchy on occasions and sure enough he was found out at Sandown when falling on Saturday in the Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase. Hobbs appeared pragmatic when saying: “Unfortunately Champagne West banged his hock when falling and some tiny bone chips around the hock have been detected. He will be sent to Newmarket for further assessment but hopefully it is nothing serious and is not career threatening. If all goes well he should be back in the autumn for the Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham in November."
The injuries once again highlight just how tough a business this is. To get all the stars of our sport fit and well for the great spring festivals will always be an impossible task. Sprinter Sacre and Sire de Grugy are two outstanding champions returning from spells on the side-lines. Hopes are high that they both arrive at Prestbury Park safe and sound for the second week in March.
The journey from season start to thrilling climax is fraught with danger. Let’s hope for no more surprises and unexpected setbacks. A clear run from now to March is all we ask, and Jump Racing’s Olympics can provide the wonderful spectacle we have all come to expect.