Don Poli, third in the 2016 Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup, will miss the 2017 edition of the race after suffering a setback, just four days before the start of the Cheltenham Festival.
Trained by Willie Mullins to win the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle (2014) and RSA Chase (2015) at successive Festival’s, a dispute between owners Gigginstown House Stud and Closutton handler Mullins, led the son of Poliglote to being switched to Gordon Elliott’s County Meath yard this season.
The nine-year-old has run with credit without tasting success for his new trainer this term, but started the campaign with a bitterly disappointing effort in the JNwine.com Champion Chase at Down Royal, in which he was pulled up.
However, the Irish-bred gelding has returned to form in two starts since, chasing home stable companion Outlander in the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown in December, before finishing a one and a half-length third to Sizing John in the Irish Gold Cup last time, in which Don Poli led for the much of that race.
A general 16/1 shot for the Blue Riband event before the news broke, Elliott may now rely on Outlander and also Empire Of Dirt, general 4/1 second-favourite for the Ryanair Chase over two and a half-miles but who is now as low as 10/1 for the Gold Cup.
Revealing the news in his Betfair blog, Elliott remarked: “Unfortunately Don Poli has picked up an injury and will not make it to this year’s Festival.
“We are all very disappointed as he was in great form and we were really looking forward to him running.”
Gigginstown Racing Manager Eddie O’Leary would not however be drawn on which horses would run where following the announcement, commenting: “We’ll run the horses in the race we feel they have the best chance of winning.
“We’re just getting over this news and we don’t need to be making any definite plans for the other horses just yet.”