Leading Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle contender Ferny Hollow will miss the Cheltenham Festival after suffering a suspected stress fracture.
Last season's Champion Bumper winner, trained by Willie Mullins, is generally second favourite at a best price of 9-1 in the ante-post betting for the Supreme and is also prominent in the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle market.
The recent Gowran Park winner – getting the better of Bob Olinger in a compelling tussle with the pair finishing clear of their field – was last week withdrawn from a potential Christmas assignment at Leopardstown.
Chris Richardson, managing director of owners Cheveley Park Stud, said on Sunday: “Ferny Hollow has a suspected stress fracture behind. Although nothing is immediately visible on his X-rays, that is often the case with a stress fracture and so we are treating it as such.
“Sadly, he will miss the Cheltenham Festival. We hope he might be able to make it back for Punchestown, but we will have to see. It’s very frustrating but he’s very special, so we’re being conservative with him.”
Asked when the problem emerged, Richardson said: “We have been investigating since the beginning of last week because he wasn’t sound. We couldn’t find the cause of the lameness, however.
“Quite often it takes two to three weeks for a stress fracture to show up on an X-ray and it will be at that point that we would know definitely, but we’ve got to proceed with the bigger picture in mind now.
“He’s sound in his box currently but he’s not trotting up sound. That’s the thing with injuries – unless they are severe or catastrophic, it can actually take some time to find the cause. This is how we are responding initially. We will know more for sure in three weeks’ time.”
Mullins remains hopeful Ferny Hollow might return to action before the end of the season.
Speaking after saddling a winner at Thurles on Sunday, the champion trainer said: "It looks like he has a stress fracture - he was lame after his last run and didn't recover.
"We can't find anything wrong, he is lame behind. We can't find it on an X-ray and that usually means there is some little fracture there.
"Those things will recover 100 per cent - it is disappointing, but it could be a lot worse than that. Punchestown is a possibility as usually they need four to six weeks depending on how they recover and the horse will tell us that more than anything else."Check out the Racing TV large screen app on Amazon Fire TV, Android TV and Apple TV devices, so you can enjoy the action on your TV screen! Click here for more details.
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