Thyme Hill to miss Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham Festival next week with muscle injury… with lame Energumene also out of Arkle Novices’ Chase
- Thyme Hill’s clash with Paisley Park was hotly anticipated at Cheltenham
- He beat that rival in the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury in November
- Paisley Park gained revenge by a neck in the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot
Paisley Park has been cut to 15-8 favourite for the Stayers’ Hurdle after big rival Thyme Hill was ruled out of the Cheltenham Festival by trainer Philip Hobbs.
The cast list at the Festival lost another big name on Friday when trainer Willie Mullins said his Arkle Novices’ Chase contender Energumene was lame.
Thyme Hill will be particularly missed given the rivalry that had developed with Emma Lavelle-trained Paisley Park, the 2019 Stayers’ Hurdle winner.
Thyme Hill is out of the Stayers’ Hurdle at next week’s Cheltenham Festival due to injury
Their clash on Thursday had been billed as a decider after Thyme Hill emerged on top in the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury in November, before Paisley Park gained revenge by a neck when swooping late in a thrilling Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot the following month.
Thyme Hill’s trainer Hobbs said: ‘Unfortunately Thyme Hill has sustained a minor muscle tear behind the saddle which will prevent him from running in the Stayers’ Hurdle on Thursday.
‘However, looking ahead with Aintree in mind next month it should not be a problem.’
The absence of Energumene has made Nicky Henderson-trained Shiskin an even hotter favourite for Tuesday’s Arkle Chase. Ladbrokes make the winner of last season’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle the 4-7 market leader.
Energumene, the Arkle Novices’ Chase hope, is lame and also misses out on the Festival
Having already said he will use cheekpieces to try to sharpen up Altior in Wednesday’s Queen Mother Champion Chase, Henderson will fit a visor or blinkers for the first time to stablemate Santini when he bids to go one better than his second to Al Boum Photo in Friday’s Gold Cup.
Meanwhile, the return of champion jockey Oisin Murphy after a three-month ban for testing positive for cocaine has been delayed.
Murphy was due to have three rides at Lingfield on Thursday and five at Chelmsford on Friday.
Thyme Hill’s clash with Paisley Park was one of most eagerly-awaited clashes of the Festival
Under BHA protocols, jockeys returning from a drugs-based ban may be subject to four random urine tests over a month period.
It is understood Murphy has only had three of these tests.
A BHA spokesman said: ‘As of March 12, Mr Murphy is only part way through his reinstatement testing, and he is therefore unable to ride at this point.
‘Upon completion of the necessary processes satisfactorily, Mr Murphy will be able to return to riding.’