Sandor Clegane will miss the Weatherbys Champion Bumper at the Cheltenham Festival and could be saved for next season, according to trainer Paul Nolan.
Having won a Punchestown bumper by 15 lengths on his debut, the five-year-old was no match for the hugely impressive Facile Vega at Leopardstown’s Dublin Racing Festival.
Hopes were high that the Fame And Glory gelding could get back to winning ways in the BetVictor INH Flat Race at Naas on Sunday.
Yet having travelled supremely well under Barry O’Neill, Sandor Clegane did not find as much as anticipated off the bridle and the 4-9 favourite was beaten three-quarters of a length by Music Drive.
Nolan said: “Of course were were disappointed to be beaten. It was just one of those things.
“We will have a chat to the owners, but he won’t be going to Cheltenham. That’s definite.
“We will possibly consider Fairyhouse or Punchestown if the ground comes up soft enough. It might be a little bit more up his alley on testing conditions.
“Unfortunately if just didn’t happen the other day. The slow pace didn’t suit him and I wouldn’t read much more into it than that.
“Of course we are disappointed, but we are still hoping he is a good horse and once he gets a jump in front of him and over a further trip, I think he will be a different animal. I hope that’s the case.”
As short as 16-1 with BetVictor for the Champion Bumper, Nolan is now left pondering where his next outing will be, and he is tempted to bide his time.
“You don’t like running in too many bumpers, but you will see any of Gordon Elliott’s and Willie Mullins’ champions have won two or three bumpers, and it is a long time to let him off – if you let him off now, you are not coming back until next October,” the Enniscorthy handler added.
“We are happy enough to take a chance on giving him a bit of an easy time of it and consider Fairyhouse or Punchestown if the ground came up heavy. That will be it. If it doesn’t come up that way, we won’t be running.
“I think he will be more at home on softer conditions. Naas had lovely ground, but it was drying out considerably.
“On the day he was beaten fair and square. I don’t think perhaps they would have quickened up as they did had the ground been a couple of inches deeper, but I don’t like making excuses.”