Cheltenham Festival: Robert Thornton out of Festival

Robert Thornton: Out for season. Picture: Getty
Robert Thornton: Out for season. Picture: Getty
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Jockey Robert Thornton looks set to miss next week’s Cheltenham Festival and the rest of the season due to injury.

The leading rider suffered a heavy fall from Our Phylli Vera at Southwell on Monday but his injuries were not thought to be serious and he was expected to be in action at Exeter the following day. However, he did not take up his one ride at the Devon track and has since undergone tests, which revealed bad news.

Thornton tweeted: “Few tests yesterday, not great news looks like I’ll be missing the rest of the season.”

Trainer Alan King says he is “absolutely gutted” for his stable jockey. “When I spoke to him last night I realised things were pretty bad,” said the Barbury Castle handler. “After the fall we all thought he was just badly bruised, but the scan has obviously said otherwise. We’ll get by, but I just feel so sorry for Choc [Thornton].”

Meanwhile, Hurricane Fly will face a maximum of nine rivals when he aims to regain his crown in the Stan James Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival on Tuesday. The Willie Mullins-trained nine-year-old landed the two-mile championship in 2011 and, although he was beaten into third when odds-on 12 months ago, he has looked better than ever so far this season. The three main British-trained hopes are last year’s winner Rock On Ruby, now with Harry Fry, Paul Nicholls’ improving Zarkandar and the Nicky Henderson-trained Grandouet.

Henderson could also run 2010 champion Binocular, as well as the runner-up of that year, Khyber Kim. Last year’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winner Cinders And Ashes and Triumph Hurdle hero Countrywide Flame add further strength in depth. The field is completed by Balder Succes and Cotton Mill, although the latter looks more likely to stick to handicap company in the County Hurdle.

Entries were also announced for the Qipco 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket on 4 May. Jim Bolger was in bullish mood about Dawn Approach as the unbeaten colt featured among 72 entries. Last season’s European champion two-year-old, now in Godolphin colours, claimed six straight victories in his juvenile season, rounding off with the Group One National Stakes and Dewhurst. Asked how the son of his Derby winner New Approach progressed over the winter, County Carlow trainer Bolger said: “I’ve simplified the answer to one word – awesome.”

Mikel Delzangles could look to What A Name for a second Newmarket Classic success in the Qipco 1,000 Guineas. The French trainer saddled Makfi to a surprise victory in the 2,000 Guineas three years ago and believes What A Name could be right for the fillies’ Classic. There are 69 entries and include unbeaten fillies Certify, trained by Mahmood Al Zarooni, Charlie Hills’ Just The Judge and Rosdhu Queen from the William Haggas yard.

SELECTIONS

Carlisle

2.10 Karinga Dandy

2.40 Wild Geese

3.15 Witness In Court

3.45 Beau Dandy

4.20 Coverholder

4.50 Bogside

5.20 Cleve Cottage

Wolverhampton

5.40 Green Millionaire

6.10 Athaakeel

6.40 Under Par

7.10 Hillbilly Boy

7.40 Sail Home

8.10 Pairumani Prince

8.40 Thane Of Cawdor

Southwell

2.20 Xpres Maite

2.50 Very First Blade

3.25 Rainford Glory

3.55 Aryal

4.30 Tight Lipped

5.00 Aubrietia

5.30 Dewala

Wincanton

2.00 Royal Peak

2.30 Ruben Cotter (nap)

3.00 If In Doubt

3.35 Don’t Be Late

4.05 Even If

4.40 Little Jimmy

5.10 Sulpius

5.45 Generous June