Gold Cup hope Topofthegame ruled out for the season with leg injury
Topofthegame, winner of the RSA Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in March, has been ruled out for the season after sustaining what trainer Paul Nicholls described as "a minor leg injury".
The champion trainer was preparing the seven-year-old for the Ladbrokes Trophy, formerly the Hennessy, for which he had been ante-post favourite.
Topofthegame, who was 10-1 for the Magners Gold Cup at Cheltenham next March, beat Santini and Delta Work in a pulsating finish to the RSA Chase at Cheltenham in March.
Owned by Chris Giles and Paul Barber, Topofthegame went on to finish second to Lostintranslation in the Grade 1 Mildmay Chase at Aintree to confirm himself one of the top novice chasers of the season.
Nicholls said on his Betfair blog: "While the problem is not serious it is enough to make us stop with him at this stage and give him plenty of time to recover.
"It’s frustrating because he’d done so well over the summer and has been cantering away nicely at home ahead of a crack at the Ladbrokes Trophy. Hopefully he will be back in training again next season when his long term target will again be the Gold Cup."
It is an early blow for Nicholls as he had made no secret of the regard he holds Topofthegame in at his owners' day at Ditcheat at the start of the month when he said: "He strikes me as an ideal Gold Cup horse. He travels beautifully, jumps and stays, and those are the qualities you need.
"Obviously it wasn’t the plan to take him to the festival without a win over fences under his belt, but we just ran out of time. He beat Santini fair and square there, and the third horse has since boosted the form, so the first three at Cheltenham all look top-class.
“And look at his earlier form. Any horse capable of giving Defi Du Seuil the best part of 25 lengths start, as Topofthegame did at Exeter, and then getting within four lengths of him, must be a serious horse."
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