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Chief ruled out of Cheltenham

Mille Chief has been ruled out of the JCB Triumph Hurdle having failed to show sufficient improvement from the setback which caused him to miss his intended outing at Kempton last Saturday.

The French import has endured an interrupted season but was ante-post favourite with many bookmakers before news of his lameness emerged.

Trainer Alan King had hoped there was a small chance he could still make the Festival. He said: "Mille Chief is getting better and we can see improvement, but we have basically run out of time to make the Triumph.

"You can't go half-cocked to Cheltenham -- even 90pc is not good enough.

"But I remain very hopeful that we will be able to get him ready in time for Aintree and Punchestown.

"Mille Chief is a very good horse and I still have a lot of faith in him, but I am not prepared to take any risks and feel it best we make an early decision so as to keep the betting public fully informed.

"He'll miss Cheltenham and we'll monitor the situation, but I'd be optimistic that we'll make Liverpool."

Mille Chief's owner Max McNeil added: I'm absolutely gutted that Mille Chief is going to miss Cheltenham but the horse's welfare has to come first.

"What we'll do now is look forward to Aintree and Punchestown with him and hope he can show what he is capable of there as he's just not quite ready for Cheltenham.

"Now I'll look forward to seeing how Olofi gets on for Tom George in the race instead, as I also own a third of him."