Injury puts an end to Death Duty's season
Michael O'Leary's Gigginstown operations have suffered a blow with the news that highly-rated novice chaser Death Duty will miss the rest of the season after suffering an injury to a hind joint.
Gordon Elliott's seven-year-old won his first three starts over fences, including the Grade One Drinmore Novice Chase at Fairyhouse, but fell on his last outing at Leopardstown over Christmas.
Death Duty sustained the problem during the Racing Post Novice Chase, with Gigginstown racing manager Eddie O'Leary suggesting the problem may have occurred before his final-fence fall.
"Unfortunately, he'll be out for the season," O'Leary stated.
"I'd say it probably happened earlier than the fall because it is a problem with a hind joint. Hopefully he'll be back next season."
The son of Shantou had been prominent in the Cheltenham Festival betting for the RSA Novices' Chase and the JLT Novices' Chase.
English hopes for Cheltenham also suffered a blow yesterday after it emerged that Thistlecrack will miss the Gold Cup and the rest of the season.
Kim Tizzard, assistant trainer to her father Colin, reported that the former World Hurdle winner had sustained a stress fracture to the top of his tibia after finishing fourth in the King George at Kempton over Christmas.
The 10-year-old looked a potential superstar when winning the 2016 King George but Tizzard's inmate is now set for another prolonged spell on the sidelines.
"We were going for the Gold Cup - we're gutted. Hopefully he'll have his box rest and come back next season," said Tizzard Jnr.
Suitable contenders for the Gold Cup are looking a little thin on the ground at the moment, although it is not unusual for recent winners of the Festival's blue riband to be lying under the radar 10 weeks before the race.
This time last year, Sizing John had just been on the receiving end of another hiding from Douvan and not yet stepped up to three miles. Three years ago, Coneygree was still just a novice with two chases under his belt.
The Gold Cup market was adjusted accordingly, with Ladbrokes trimming Might Bite to 3/1. Jessica Harrington's Sizing John, which ran a stinker at Leopardstown, is 6/1, while stablemate Our Duke, the Tizzard-trained Native River, and Noel Meade's Road To Respect are 10/1.
Elsewhere, Nicky Henderson is considering aiming Call Me Lord at Newbury's Betfair Hurdle on February 10.
The five-year-old bounced back from defeat on his seasonal return at Huntingdon with a decisive success at Sandown on Saturday and Anthony Bromley, racing manager to owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede, said: "He'll get an entry in the Betfair Hurdle. He will be nearly top weight for the race. We'll have to see what the handicapper does and take our medicine.
"We would prefer to go right-handed with him but Nico (de Boinville) felt he was pretty straightforward so the plan is to go to Newbury. If he acts well there he could go to Cheltenham."
The weather continues to hit the action across the Irish Sea. Doncaster today must survive a morning inspection, while tomorrow's fixture at Ayr is also under threat with the track reportedly frozen in places.