Last season’s Champion Bumper hero Ferny Hollow is set to miss the Cheltenham Festival due to injury.
The Cheveley Park Stud-owned gelding stormed up the famous hill to provide trainer Willie Mullins with a 10th Champion Bumper success in March and made a fine start to his career over hurdles when seeing off subsequent winner Bob Olinger at Gowran Park last month.
However, the five-year-old was not entered to run over the Christmas period and connections have now confirmed he will miss much of the current campaign, if not all.
Chris Richardson, managing director of owners Cheveley Park Stud, said: “It’s really frustrating. We’re still not really sure what the problem is, but it looks like a stress fracture behind.
“We’re sort of investigating as we go forward. Willie said he’s not right and obviously I’m not able to go over and see him because we’re all stuck where we are.
“It’s a shame. He’ll probably miss Cheltenham and we’ll hopefully know more in a couple of weeks’ time on whether we might get him back for Punchestown when we X-ray him again.
“We’re lucky that we’ve got a few of these other horses that have been running so well, but we were really looking forward to him.”
Mullins remains hopeful Ferny Hollow might return to action before the end of the season.
Speaking after saddling a winner at Thurles on Sunday, the champion trainer said: “It looks like he has a stress fracture – he was lame after his last run and didn’t recover.
“We can’t find anything wrong, he is lame behind. We can’t find it on an X-ray and that usually means there is some little fracture there.
“Those things will recover 100 per cent – it is disappointing, but it could be a lot worse than that.
“Punchestown is a possibility as usually they need four to six weeks depending on how they recover and the horse will tell us that more than anything else.”