The runup to the Cheltenham Festival is always exciting, as warm-up races give plenty of clues to racing punters and tipsters alike as to which horses are best prepared to pull off wins across the four days.
Another thing for keen equestrians to keep an eye on is which horses are being pulled from the festival.
It’s common for horses to be pulled in the runup, either to recover from a niggling injury or just because their trainer decided it would be better for them to focus on other targets.
This can sometimes mean that some of the biggest favourites for a race are erased from the slate, leaving sports bettors and horse racing fans needing to recalibrate their predictions.
Here, we detail just some of the high-profile casualties who will be absent from Cheltenham Festival 2022.
Ferny Hollow – Out of the Arkle
A horse that is still unbeaten over fences, Willie Mullins’ Ferny Hollow was the odds-on favourite to take the Arkle on the opening day at Cheltenham.
In fact, plenty of expert tipsters had been convincing racing punters to use Cheltenham betting offers to back the horse.
The reason for Ferny Hollow’s absence is a ligament injury. While it’s expected to heal nicely, his handlers chose not to risk further aggravation by having him run at the Cheltenham Festival.
Ferny Hollow’s omission from the starting lineup now means the race is wide open.
Mullins will still be hoping to take the Arkle’s spoils with the well-fancied Blue Lord, while other notable horses to keep an eye on include Edwardstone and Riviere D’Etel, who are both priced at 9/2 or below at most reputable online bookmakers.
Blazing Khal – Out of the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle
Blazing Khal had been blazing a trail right from the outset of this jumps season, bringing home the bacon in not one but two races run at Cheltenham Racecourse.
This had set the six-year-old up as the clear favourite for the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle, the race that warms up the grandstands right before the Gold Cup is run.
However, his trainer, Charles Byrnes announced that Blazing Khal would most likely return at Punchestown, although even those plans could be scuppered if the horse’s injuries don’t heal in time.
Sharjah – Out of the Champion Hurdle
The Champion Hurdle is one of the highlights of the Cheltenham Festival’s opening day, so it’s always a blow to the whole event when a favourite is forced to withdraw.
This is the fate that has befallen Sharjah, leaving the door wide open for other horses to come to the fore and fill the big gap the Willie Mullins trained horse has left behind.
Having finished second to the incredible Honeysuckle and Epatante in previous years, we expected Sharjah to get his just deserts at this third time of asking. But, like Blazing Khal, he’s another one who’s in a race against time to be fit for Punchestown.
Late Pull-Outs are Inevitable
As well as the high-profile absences mentioned here, there are always a couple more that crop up before the racing and betting action gets underway at the Cheltenham Festival.
Horse racing and betting fans should keep this probability in mind to avoid disappointment, as well as a plan B and C up their sleeves – just in case the worst occurs and their most-fancied long noses are pulled from the racing schedule.