Colin Tizzard hopes to have Thistlecrack back on a racecourse around Christmas time after a season-ending tendon injury saw him become the latest high-profile name to be ruled out of the Cheltenham Festival.
The dominant force in the staying hurdle division last year, the nine-year-old won his first four starts over fences, including a scintillating victory in the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day.
Despite suffering a narrow defeat at the hands of the ill-fated Many Clouds in the Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham at the end of January, he remained at the head of the betting for the Timico Gold Cup on 17 March, but will not line up at Prestbury Park.
Tizzard said: “Thistlecrack is out for the season, unfortunately. He had a bit of heat in his leg last night and was a bit sore. We had the leg scanned this morning and he has a slight tear on his tendon. We’ve seen it at every yard and it happens every year.”
“We know it’s not very serious We haven’t done much with him since the Cotswold Chase because he had a hard race. He had a little cough afterwards and got a bit light, so we were just cantering.
“It’s not very bad, it’s not like breaking down. It’s just a little bit sore there, a bit of heat.
“I asked the vet ‘are we talking about next season off?’, or are we talking about from Christmas on and he’ll be fine, and he said he should be absolutely fine by Christmas.
“It’s not that we’re going to miss next season, but things change. I’m as sure as I can be that he should be fine for next season from Christmas on.”
The news comes as another huge blow to National Hunt racing’s showpiece meeting, with Thistlecrack joining the likes of Coneygree, Annie Power and Faugheen on the sidelines.
Jockey Tom Scudamore has ridden Thistlecrack to 10 of his 13 career victories, and said the news made him “feel sick”.
He said: “Joe (Tizzard) rang me on my way to the races and he just said he’d done a tendon and wouldn’t be going to Cheltenham.
“From what I gather he’ll be back next season, I’ve just been told he won’t make the Gold Cup.
“It’s something that happens in racing unfortunately. Look at Willie Mullins this season, he’s lost a handful.
“Even still, it doesn’t make it easy to swallow, it makes you feel sick.
“It’s worse for the owners, John and Heather (Snook), and the lads that see him every morning.”