Hopes of an Irish winner in next Thursday’s Ladbrokes World Hurdle, one of the highlights on day three of the Cheltenham Festival 2011, have been dealt a blow with the news that the smart performer Solwhit will miss the race and is unlikely to be seen again this season, writes Elliot Slater.
Trainer Charles Byrnes had been looking forward to seeing just how Solwhit would fare on his first attempt at three miles having proved himself in recent seasons to be a smart horse over two and two-and-a-half miles. Now, after failing to shine in recent training gallops, Byrnes has been forced to abandon his plan of taking on Big Buck’s and Grand Crus and has decided that Solwhit simply needs to be given a break having had four tough races this term, winning the Grade 1 Punchestown Hurdle in November, before finding his bete noir Hurricane Fly too good for him in three successive Grade 1 contests since then.
The prospect of Solwhit stepping up in trip had made bookmakers price him up at just 12/1 for the World Hurdle and there had been some notable support for the seven-year-old in recent days. The plan now is to rough him off and bring him back as a novice chaser next term, a prospect which is sure to excite his many fans in the Emerald Isle. Many Irish punters are now likely to focus on other big races at the Festival, such as the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
A winner of 12 of his 23 races, (six at Grade 1 level), Solwhit ran sixth in last season’s Champion Hurdle behind Binocular before failing by just a neck to get the better of his old rival Hurricane Fly in last season’s Rabobank Champion Hurdle at Punchestown in April. Amongst a number of fine career performances his victory in the 2009 John Smith’s Aintree Hurdle over two-and-a-half miles had been the win that gave most weight to the theory that he would be just as good, if not better over half a mile further.