Sir Des Champs (left) chased home Bobs Worth in last year's Gold CupPICTURE: Getty Images
Gold Cup third favourite Champs out for season
ON THE day Bryan Cooper was announced as retained rider by Gigginstown House Stud it was revealed that Sir Des Champs, his new employer's shortest-priced runner in the Cheltenham ante-post markets, will miss the Festival with a tendon injury.
The Willie Mullins-trained eight-year-old, who finished second in last year's Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup, was as short as 6-1 and a best-priced 8-1 third favourite for this year's race in March.
"Unfortunately Sir Des Champs has suffered slight damage to a tendon," said Mullins on Friday. "The injury is going to take time to heal so we have decided to pull the plug on the remainder of this season."
BetVictor reacted by cutting the Lexus Chase winner Bobs Worth to 9-4 (from 5-2) for the Gold Cup and King George victor Silviniaco Conti to 3-1 (from 7-2) following the confirmation that Sir Des Champs would miss the race.
A dual winner at the Cheltenham Festival, having won the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap in 2011 and the Jewson Novices' Chase the following year, Sir Des Champs has won three Grade 1 chases and ten of his 15 starts since switching from the Flat.
Officially the highest-rated chaser in Ireland, Sir Des Champs was fourth behind Bobs Worth in the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown on his last start, having fallen at the third fence in the John Durkan Memorial Chase at Punchestown on his seasonal reappearance last month.
In his Betfair blog Paul Nicholls revealed Silviniaco Conti will head straight to Cheltenham, while Al Ferof will run in the Denman Chase at Newbury before it is decided whether or not he will tackle the Gold Cup or Ryanair.
Nicholls also revealed that Rocky Creek could go for the race, should he make a good impression in the Argento Chase at Cheltenham later this month, while Unioniste, eighth behind Bobs Worth and Sir Des Champs in the Lexus, will also get an entry, but will only run if the ground were to come up "bottomless."