Former JCB Triumph Hurdle favourite Minsk will miss Cheltenham after he was found to have an infection when beaten on his jumping debut at Fairyhouse on Saturday.
As a result, trainer Dessie Hughes and owner Barry Connell have decided to pull the plug on Minsk’s hurdling programme for this season.
The four-year-old will probably not run again until towards the end of the Flat season, when he will return to the John Oxx stable, for whom he won the Irish Cesarewitch in impressive fashion last autumn.
The four-year-old will then go back to Hughes to resume his career as a novice over hurdles.
“He was a bit disappointing so we had him scoped when we got home and found he has an inflamed throat. It’s the start of an infection,” said Hughes.
“His lungs were clean, but he’s starting to get a cold and the vet said there’s no way he could finish the race with that.
“We had scoped him on Wednesday after work and he scoped clean. It’s a tough old game.
“He can’t go to Cheltenham now. He has to go on antibiotics and it will take a good two weeks to clear it up.
“There’s no way he can get to the Triumph Hurdle, unfortunately. I’d say we’d leave him now and keep him as a novice for next season.
“I’d say he’d go back and run on the Flat in the autumn in a couple of races and then go hurdling.
“The owner has made up his mind and that makes sense to me.”
Minsk had been at the top of the Triumph betting at around 6-1 before he had jumped a hurdle in public on the strength of his good Flat form and reports of his excellent schooling at home.
However, he was surprisingly beaten on his eagerly-awaited debut, albeit by a neck, by Burrenbridge Lodge.
But Hughes felt Minsk would have won had he jumped the final flight cleaner despite being under the weather.
“If he’d have jumped the last quicker on Saturday he’d probably have won anyway,” the County Kildare-based handler added.