Late scratches hide a big pain

Almost exactly two weeks from now we will hear the traditional roar as the 2018 Cheltenham Festival gets going with the Supreme Novices’ hurdle. One thing for sure is I hope the temperature rises a few degrees between now and then.

It’s about this time when news of horses not going to the Festival starts coming through. There’s always 2-3 very fancied horses impacted, with a stone bruise or a pulled muscle or whatever. In the last 24 hours alone we’ve had the fancied Fox Norton taken out of the Ryanair and Willoughby Court, favourite for the 2 1/2 mile novice chase, now said to be 30-70 to make it having managed to get poison in a foot. In his stable tour Willie Mullins also ruled out Great Field from making it to Cheltenham. There will be more such announcements in the next fortnight. And we’ve already lost Thistlecrack for the second year running.

What a blow this news must be, obviously to connections, who have dreamed about the big day in March for months, meticulously preparing the horse for big day. What a blow it must be to ante post punters to have thought they’ve got through almost the entire winter only to metaphorically fall at the last. And what a blow it is to the racing public unable to see the big names turn up for the big day. Such is National Hunt racing.

Spare a thought for the poor horse standing in its box. Actually for the horse it is quite a result, it can take life easy and continue to be well looked after, completely oblivious to Cheltenham and all that comes with it.

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