Big shake-up in Gold Cup after Coneygree woe
Irish-trained horses dominate the betting for the Cheltenham Gold Cup after reigning champion Coneygree was taken out of the ante-post lists for the blue riband in March.
The Mark Bradstock-trained eight-year-old has gone to Newmarket for further veterinary assessment after suffering an injury and it is believed he will miss the rest of the campaign.
Coneygree, which looked so impressive on his return to action at Sandown in November, had been in the frame to run over Christmas in either the King George VI Chase at Kempton or in the Lexus at Leopardstown.
But plans have been derailed after he suffered what is understood to be slab fractures in both hocks, but it is not thought to be a career-threatening injury.
Sara Bradstock, the Oxfordshire trainer's wife and assistant, said: "He is injured and will not run in the King George or the Lexus.
"He is in no distress and walked on to the box sound. The vets at Newmarket will have a good look at him and we'll see what they discover - it will be a day or two before we have any news.
"They'll probably scan him and we'll see what the extent of the damage is. We know the engine is there, but the long legs that serve him so well on the racecourse are a little bit fragile.
"Everyone knows I think the world of this horse, which is why we're being careful. There will be no corners cut. He will be back, but at this stage I can't tell you when that will be."
Coneygree missed an intended appearance in last month's Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury after he suffered a foot problem, but connections insist the latest setback is unrelated. The horse's finest hour came last March when he became the first novice to win the Gold Cup in 41 years, after Captain Christy in 1974.