Nicky Henderson suffered a setback to his Cheltenham Festival challenge when the much hyped Lyvius failed to impress at Newbury on Friday in coming home a well beaten second to the Donald McCain-trained Gottany O’s in the Floor V David HI1979 Juvenile Hurdle and has duly been scratched from his intended target of the Grade 1 JCB Triumph Hurdle, writes Elliot Slater.
A dual winner in his native Germany over nine and ten furlongs, Lyvius had been a persistent whisper for the Triumph Hurdle even before he made his hurdling bow at Kelso in February, where he took a strong grip but had enough left in the locker to see off Sailors Ha by two-lengths to get off to a promising start in his new career over timber. The gelded son of Paolini duly attracted support and was backed down to 20/1 in the ante-post market for the juvenile hurdling crown as a result of his success at the Borders track and was confidently expected to book his place in the line-up for the two-mile cavalry charge on the final day of the Cheltenham Festival with a winning performance at Newbury on March 2.
Unfortunately for those that steamed in and supported the Trevor Hemmings-owned gelding down to 8/13, Barry Geraghty’s mount again took a strong hold but moved into a promising position going to the third last at which it looked very much as though he would sweep by the front-running Gottany O’s. McCain’s charge however kept up a strong gallop and it was clear at the second last that the favourite was not picking up and was in trouble. With the leader pouring it on after the last Lyvius was soon left behind and eventually came in some nine-lengths adrift of the brave victor. Anyone with an online 2012 Cheltenham free bet will now have to place it elsewhere.
Henderson immediately confirmed that the runner-up will not be going to Cheltenham, but didn’t completely rule out a trip to Aintree in April.