Plate hero Simply The Betts ruled out of another Cheltenham bid due to injury
Simply The Betts, who gave Harry Whittington such a thrill when winning at Cheltenham last year, will miss the meeting this season, but the trainer still hopes to make festival headlines with Rouge Vif and Saint Calvados.
Owned by Andrew and Kate Brooks, Simply The Betts won what was the Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate at the festival last season, but has been off since finishing sixth in November's Paddy Power Gold Cup.
He had been entered in the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase, Ryanair Chase and WellChild Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Whittington said on Tuesday: "We're ruling out Simply The Betts. He's been in for a bone scan and is not quite right behind. He's got a bit of a reaction going on in a couple of places on the bone, so we've had to rule out Cheltenham.
"There's a chance he might be back for a race at the end of the season, but he's still got a couple more scans and x-rays to do. We were going to enter him for the race he won last year today, but we've had to pull out.
"It's a real shame because he gave us a great day last year. The important thing is we get him right and he hasn't got anything serious going on, but we just have to miss this year."
That triumph for Simply The Betts was Whittington's first at the festival and the trainer, based close to Lambourn, is understandably hungry for more success.
Rouge Vif, who finished third in the Arkle and Tingle Creek in 2020, is 20-1 for the Champion Chase, while stable star Saint Calvados is 9-1 to go one better than his second in last year's Ryanair, although the Gold Cup is also under consideration.
"Rouge Vif is all set and in good form," Whittington said. "His preparation is going well and he had a break after running in the Desert Orchid at Kempton over Christmas.
"This sun looks like it's in for the next couple of weeks and if that continues he should get his conditions. We've had a lot of rain this winter and are probably due some dry weather.
"It'll be Andrew's [Brooks] decision, but he wouldn't be likely to run on very soft or heavy ground if it came up that way, but hopefully we get some nice good-to-soft or better ground."
Saint Calvados finished fourth in the King George VI Chase on his reappearance this season, but then unseated Gavin Sheehan in the rearranged Cotswold Chase at Sandown recently.
Whittington added: "We've left Saint Calvados in the Ryanair and Gold Cup and we'll make a decision closer to the time. He's none the worse for the unfortunate unseat at Sandown and he's in good nick. We kept him in the Ascot Chase on Saturday, but plan A was to have him spot on for Cheltenham seeing as it was quite tight in terms of timing.
"We felt it was best to miss Ascot and get him refreshed for Cheltenham; we're really looking forward to both of them."
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