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2016 Cheltenham Festival news: Time runs out for Simonsig

David Metcalf | February 16, 2016

Simonsig ruled out of Cheltenham Festival

Simonsig, who had been 10/1 with Coral for the Queen Mother Champion Chase, has been ruled out of the Cheltenham Festival by trainer Nicky Henderson.

The 10-year-old looked a potential superstar when winning the Arkle at Cheltenham back in 2013, but has since has been plagued by injury.

After a lengthly spell on the sidelines, Simonsig eventually reappeared over hurdles at Aintree back in November and shaped as if retaining plenty of ability when chasing home former Gold Cup-winning stablemate Bobs Worth.

Lambourn gallops

His intended target was then the Tingle at Sandown, but a late setback ruled him out of that contest and Henderson has now conceded defeat in the battle to get him ready for the Festival.

The Seven Barrows handler said: “We have taken him out of the Champion Chase because we’re simply not going to be ready in time.

“He’s just not going to be ready for Cheltenham, one way or another. We fully intend for him to make an appearance at some point – we don’t want another season to go by – so we will have to regroup now.

“There’s still Aintree and Punchestown to come, but we’re just not going to make it to Cheltenham.”

Un De Sceaux remains Coral’s 4/6 favourite for the Champion Chase on Wednesday, March 16th. Simonsig’s stable companion and previous winner Sprinter Sacre is a 5/1 chance.

Another blow for Moore as Arkle hope Ar Mad ruled out for season

Trainer Gary Moore has confirmed that leading Arkle hope Ar Mad, who had been 8/1 third favourite with Coral for the 2m contest, has been ruled out of the season.

It’s another devastating blow for the popular handler after Traffic Fluide and Violet Dancer were recently ruled out of the four-day spectacular due to injury.

Cheltenham Trials day

Ar Mad was found to be lame after winning at Plumpton on Monday, and a front leg injury was found to be far worse than first feared.

Moore said: “He’s going to need a screw so that’s his season over. The prognosis is good long-term, he’s had a good season already and I’ve a nice horse to look forward to next year.

“It’s sickening, though, for the horse, the owners and the yard – especially after the others.”

The unbeaten Douvan remains Coral’s red-hot 1/3 favourite for the Arkle on Tuesday, March 15th, with Vaniteux next best in at 5/1 (from 6s).

Late decision on headgear for leading Gold Cup contender Don Cossack

Trainer Gordon Elliott believes the Cheltenham ground will help to determine whether Don Cossack will wear cheekpieces in next month’s Gold Cup, for which he is currently 4/1 joint-favourite with Coral.

Rated the best staying chaser in Britain and Ireland, Don Cossack won his first two starts this season in impressive fashion and still had every chance in the King George at Kempton on Boxing Day when falling at the second-last.

Horse Racing - 2015 Northern Ireland Festival of Racing - Day Two - Down Royal Racecourse

He has since got back as since got back to winning ways with a workmanlike display in the Grade 2 Kinloch Brae Chase at Thurles.

Headgear has long been under consideration by connections given that Don Cossack can race lazily, but Elliott believes he would only need the assistance of cheekpieces on soft ground.

He told At The Races: “I’ve been honest with everyone. I’m waiting to see what the ground is going to be like.

“The better the ground is, the less the chance he’ll be wearing cheekpieces. I just think he’s a better horse on better ground and if it came up heavy, you’d have to say he might struggle on his last couple of years of form.”

Fellow Irish challenger Vautour is Coral’s other 4/1 joint-favourite for the Gold Cup on Friday, March 18th. His stable companion Djakadam is 9/2, followed by Cue Card and Don Poli who are both currently 6/1.

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