Rewind 12 months and it was the Ditcheat yard of Paul Nicholls that was hit by a bug in the final build up to Cheltenham and it obviously had an impact as the yard produced just one winner over the four days, which was Big Buck’s in the Ladbrokes World Hurdle.
This time the misfortune has landed on the shoulders of Nigel Twiston-Davies, who has seen three of his leading fancies ruled out of the Cheltenham Festival.
Imperial Commander is the big loss in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, having returned with promise after almost two years off the racecourse in the Argento Chase.
The 2010 Gold Cup winner has suffered a lung infection, but hope remains that he will recover in time to line up in the Grand National, for which he can still be backed at 33/1.
Astracad, who was entered in the Grand Annual and Byrne Group Plate, is another of the Cheltenham absentees, along with Pulteney Novice Handicap Chase contender The Cockney Mackem.
Some would argue that if there is any justice, Twiston-Davies will definitely experience one Festival winner this year, with his best hope clearly looking like The New One, who is currently 4/1 to win the Neptune Novices’ Hurdle.
However, even though Twiston-Davies indicated that the rest of his team were “fine” from the issues troubling the yard, it would be brave to back one of his runners with any confidence now, especially given the performances of the Nicholls team in similar circumstances last year.
Instead, it may pay to back a horse at slightly longer odds, whose price can be expected to contract ahead of the race as a result of the news.
The obvious runner in this regard is Taquin Du Seuil, who sits behind The New One in the Neptune betting at present at 6/1.
Jonjo O’Neill’s entrant has only lost one of his four hurdles start and this was only by two lengths when conceding 4lb to red-hot Supreme Novices’ Hurdle favourite My Tent Or Yours.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.