Dual Smurfit Champion Hurdle winner Hardy Eustace is down to 5-2 with totesport for a third success in the Cheltenham event after fellow Irish raider Feathard Lady was finally ruled out.
Dessie Hughes’ nine-year-old heads Brave Inca (11-4) at the top of the market after Colm Murphy lost his race against time with the unbeaten mare.
The County Wexford handler had been hoping the six-year-old would make the championship event after she sprained a hind fetlock joint two weeks ago.
However, he told PA Sport: “I met with the owners yesterday and on veterinary advice we decided that we weren’t going to make it.”
The seven-times winner shot to prominence when running out an impressive winner of the Stan James Christmas Hurdle at Sandown on Boxing Day.
She was cut into favouritism for the Champion Hurdle following that run and Murphy’s intention had been to pitch her against stablemate Brave Inca in the AIG Europe Champion Hurdle this weekend.
That Leopardstown race was later ruled out in the hope she could make the Festival.
“We needed to get her back into work this week but that is not going to happen,” Murphy continued.
“Hopefully the plan will be to get her back on the track for the Punchestown Festival. That gives us an extra few weeks and we have just run out of time for Cheltenham.”
Smurfit Champion Hurdle, totesport bet: 5-2 Hardy Eustace, 11-4 Brave Inca, 13-2 Arcalis, Lingo, 12-1 Macs Joy, 14-1 Al Eile, 16-1 Faasel, 25-1 bar.