Huge Cheltenham Festival favourite and Ruby Walsh tip OUT as trainer confirms setback on live TV

A HUGE Cheltenham Festival favourite has been ruled out of racing’s biggest meeting.

Charles Byrnes confirmed Shoot First – 3-1 fav for the Pertemps on Thursday – suffered a setback this morning.


Byrnes’ strong Festival squad will be missing one after Shoot First was ruled outCredit: PA

Ruby Walsh had put the horse up as the one to beat in the 3m race over hurdles.

Byrnes told Nick Luck on Racing TV: “We suffered a setback this morning – Shoot First I’m afraid won’t be joining the party. He’s out.

“He gave himself a bang yesterday. We were at him all night. I had the vet out and we felt it would be the wrong thing to take him.

“That’s a bit of a blow.”

Some punters were gutted to find out one of their big fancies wouldn’t be running.

One said: “Shoot First a bit of a body blow but saved by non-runner no bet.”

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While another wrote: “Shoot First scratched – a few long faces out there now no doubt.”

Shoot First is the second big name to miss the race after Nicky Henderson confirmed The King’s Steal A March would not run.

Hendo said of the Royal runner: “He isn’t going to make it which is sad, very sad.

“We were hoping to get him to the race because it has been the plan for a while.

“And it would have been nice to have had a runner for the King and the Queen Consort, who were very much looking forward to the prospect of him lining up.”

Canny Irish trainer Byrnes is famed for his huge gambles and looks to have a solid book of runners for the week.

That includes Stayers’ Hurdle favourite Blazing Khal, who himself has been an injury doubt twice in the run up to the Festival.

More to follow.