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Setback rules Energumene out of Arkle challenge

Willie Mullins’ runner misses Shishkin clash.

Energumene ridden by Paul Townend last month.
Energumene ridden by Paul Townend last month.
Image: PA

WILLIE MULLINS HAS revealed Energumene will miss the Sporting Life Arkle Challenge Trophy at Cheltenham after suffering a setback.

The seven-year-old has made a huge impression in winning his first three starts over fences this season – completing his hat-trick with a brilliant display in the Irish Arkle at Leopardstown last month.

A mouthwatering clash with the Nicky Henderson-trained Shishkin looked one of the most exciting match-ups of this year’s Festival, but Mullins confirmed in a statement on his website Energumene will not be part of his travelling squad.

He said: “Energumene has met with a setback and unfortunately won’t be running at the Cheltenham Festival next week.”

Meanwhile, Thyme Hill will miss next week’s Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle after suffering a minor but untimely setback.

Trainer Philip Hobbs confirmed the seven-year-old will not be able to take up his engagement at the Cheltenham Festival because of a pulled muscle – but is “very likely” to recover in time for the equivalent Grade One race at Aintree next month.

Hobbs said: “He’s definitely not going to run at Cheltenham.

“It is minor – he’s pulled a minor muscle to the right hand side of the saddle, just behind the saddle.

“He’s actually very likely to run at Aintree, which is four weeks tomorrow.

“So it’s certainly not career-threatening or anything like that.”

Thyme Hill has vied for favouritism in the Cheltenham showpiece all winter with 2019 Stayers’ Hurdle winner Paisley Park, having beaten Emma Lavelle’s stable star once and then finished a neck second to him once in his two starts this season.

The much-anticipated round three between the two heavyweights will not happen, however, next week.

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“Unfortunately it’s just very bad timing,” added Hobbs.

“He’s got to have a few easy days, which you can’t really do before Cheltenham – so he’s not going to get there.”

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