One of the negative sides to National Hunt racing is that we spend all summer looking forward to seeing horses run who could potentially be top class only to then have the disappointment of seeing them miss the season due to injury. The first top-quality horse to succumb to injury ahead of the new season is Topofthegame from the Paul Nicholls yard. He has officially been ruled out for the entire season by Nicholls. So it will be another 12 months at least before we see him begin his quest to win a Gold Cup.

The RSA Chase winner from March was hugely impressive as a novice chaser last season. When you looked at him, how he runs and the manner of his win at Cheltenham, everything screamed that he was the type of horse that would absolutely relish the test that the Cheltenham Gold Cup brings.

However, it won’t be this season. With what has been described as a ‘minor leg injury’, Topofthegame is out for the season. Nicholls himself has said that he is being cautious with the horse. He doesn’t want to rush anything and that is why it will be a full year until we see him again.

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The horse had been as short as 10/1 for the Gold Cup. And the plan was to send him to the Ladbrokes Trophy for his first run of the season. After winning at Cheltenham he went to Aintree and finished second in the Mildmay Novice Chase. That showed again that he was a top-class animal. However, Cheltenham suits his running style far more than the flatter, speedier track at Aintree.

The good news is that the injury won’t leave any long-term damage. Topofthegame should be fully ready to go this time next season, which fans will no doubt be looking forward to. He’s only seven too, so it is not as though this is his final chance to win a Gold Cup. He should have a couple of cracks at the big race left in him yet.

The only thing he will miss is experience and especially winning experience. That is something he will quickly have to try and pick up at the start of next season. His win in the RSA Chase was his first and to date his only win over fences. That is not necessarily what you would expect from a horse that is being aimed at the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

This season would have given him the chance to pick up a further win or two, but that won’t come now. He will have to try and quickly get on the board and rack up some wins ahead of what will be the 2021 Cheltenham Gold Cup. And that is now his long term aim.

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