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Mullins hit with triple blow


Klassical Dream will miss the Cheltenham Festival

Klassical Dream will miss the Cheltenham Festival

Klassical Dream will miss the Cheltenham Festival

Three top Willie Mullins horses have been ruled out of Cheltenham next month. That Douvan is one of them is no surprise, but Saldier and Klassical Dream are also out - both were aimed at the Champion Hurdle.

All of which raises the possibility of Benie des Dieux being supplemented for the Champion Hurdle, as mentioned by his owner Rich Ricci last Sunday.

Mullins reported that Saldier had not progressed enough to take his place in the day-one showpiece and Klassical Dream will also be absent with a leg infection. Last year's Supreme winner was priced between 8-1 and 10-1.

Mullins told the Racing Post: "I have to report that both Klassical Dream and Saldier are out of the Unibet Champion Hurdle picture and won't be going to the Festival.

"We had to withdraw Klassical Dream from the PCI Irish Champion Hurdle last weekend, but the leg infection he picked up and which looked a minor problem on Friday night has turned out to be a bit more serious and we've decided to leave him alone. Unfortunately, he's going to miss the rest of the season.

"Saldier hasn't progressed well enough since the setback he had after winning the Morgiana Hurdle in November and he won't make the Festival. We'll just have to see how things go and, hopefully, he might make it back for Punchestown."

Douvan looked back to his best when scooting clear to win the Clonmel Oil Chase in November, but Mullins has not been pleased with his progress of late so a trip to the Cotswolds for the Betway Champion Chase has been ruled out.

The trainer said: "It's the same story with Douvan and he, too, won't be going to the Festival where he is entered for the Queen Mother Champion Chase.

"He started the season so well when winning the Clonmel Oil Chase in good style in November on his return from a lengthy absence, but he hasn't run since and we're just not happy with him. Whether he'll be right to go to Punchestown remains to be seen."

Meanwhile, Dan Skelton believes Nube Negra has a fine chance of returning to winning ways in the Agetur UK Kingmaker Novices' Chase at Warwick.

The six-year-old made a successful fencing debut over this course and distance in October, and quickly followed up at Fakenham before losing little in defeat when second to Esprit Du Large in the Grade One Henry VIII Novices' Chase at Sandown in December.

Looking forward to Nube Negra's return today, Skelton said: "He has won around there - which is good. I don't want any rain - but it is not forecast, which is good.

"There will be no excuses. It is a good race for him, because he doesn't carry penalties. But it is competitive, because there are a few 150-rated horses in there which will make things tough.

"At Sandown, he bumped into Evan's (Williams) horse (Esprit Du Large) on ground that suited him better than us, but I'm not taking anything away from him."

Nube Negra was a high-class juvenile hurdler two years ago, culminating in a fine effort to finish third in top handicap company at the Cheltenham Festival.

He did not hit the same heights last season, but has made a fine start to his chasing career.

"I just think he was a typical second-season juvenile that can struggle, and we see it a lot," added Skelton.