By Graham Clark
Willoughby Court has been ruled out of making his eagerly-awaited return in the Colin Parker Memorial Intermediate Chase at Carlisle on Sunday after meeting with a minor setback.
Trainer Ben Pauling had earmarked the Listed contest as a stepping stone for the Grade One-winning seven-year-old ahead of a potential outing in the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury on December 1, for which he is a general 20-1 chance.
Having recovered from a foot abscess sustained in the build up to the Cheltenham Festival in March, the Paul and Clare Rooney-owned gelding now faces another short spell on the sidelines after cutting himself in his box.
Pauling said: “Willoughby Court has picked up a little cut in his box. It is a superficial injury, but he will not quite be ready for Carlisle.
“It was just a little cut on his hind leg and I don’t want him dragging it through birch. Apart from that he is fine and I could not be happier with him.
“The idea was to give him a run at Carlisle then possibly go to Newbury for the Ladbrokes Trophy.
“There are other races that could suit him like the Christy 1965 Chase at Ascot, which is a Grade Two, or there is the Rehearsal Chase at Newcastle.
“There are plenty of options, but we are certainly in the Ladbrokes Trophy — he is there for a reason and we are not running away from it.”
Pauling is weighing up whether to start last season’s impressive Dovecote winner Global Citizen off in a handicap event at Ascot on Saturday or wait for the Grade Two Unibet Elite Hurdle at Wincanton on November 10.
He added: “Global Citizen just missed a piece of work and just needed a bit more time, that is why he didn’t run at Kempton earlier this month.
“He has been given an entry at Ascot at the weekend, but I’m not sure if he will go there or wait for the Elite Hurdle. The ground is quite quick at Wincanton and he wouldn’t want it like a road.”
Meanwhile, Tom George is looking forward to seeing Double Shuffle make his seasonal reappearance in this weekend’s bet365 Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby.
Although winless for the best part of two years, the eight-year-old ran some tremendous races in defeat last season — most notably pushing Might Bite close in the King George VI Chase at Kempton on St Stephen’s Day.
He was disappointing behind the same rival in the Betway Bowl at Aintree, and rounded off his campaign with another below-par run at Sandown, but George is pleased with his charge ahead of his intended comeback in West Yorkshire on Saturday.
“Double Shuffle is in great form at home, and we are happy with him,” George said.
“He, of course, ran a cracker in the King George last season — which was a great run — and we had him very ready that day.
“He was not at his best in two runs after that at Aintree and Sandown, and maybe the ground was a factor.
“If the rain stays away, the Charlie Hall looks a good first race to aim for this season. Good ground and three miles at Wetherby should suit.
“Kempton and another tilt at the King George is probably one of the next moves after that.”