Saint Roi hasn't made the leap that many anticipated this season following his win in the County Hurdle last season, and trainer Willie Mullins reported on Monday that the six-year-old will miss this year's Cheltenham Festival.
He made a winning return in a Grade 3 at Tipperary in October, but has been expensive to follow in Grade 1s on his last three starts.
Mullins said: “Unfortunately he’s out of Cheltenham. Chatting to JP (McManus, owner) the other day we came to the conclusion that we’re not happy with him, and he won’t run at Cheltenham.
“He just hasn’t gone forward. He’s had one or two little niggles, and I think JP was happy to just let him get over those entirely. Maybe they are the reason – maybe not.”
Mullins still has three other entries in the Champion Hurdle, headed by Sharjah, who was below form when only third to Honeysuckle in the Irish Champion Hurdle at his favoured Leopardstown last time. Mullins seemed happy enough with him but did state that he may need a new jockey at Cheltenham.
“I’m happy with him (Sharjah). Maybe the last race just came too soon after Christmas. Patrick (Mullins) has his own way of riding him. The better the ground, the better chance he’d have,” said Mullins
“Things aren’t looking good at the moment, we’ll have to see if the protocols change. It’s looking tough at the moment, anyhow. It will give myself and Gordon (Elliott) and any other trainers with good amateurs a problem, but it will be what it is.
“Saldier won’t run in the rescheduled Red Mills, where it was close enough. He’s entered in the County Hurdle, but he has been aimed at the Champion Hurdle all year, so we’re pressing every button we can to get him there.”
His final possible runner is James du Berlais, who has been purchased by Simon Munir and Isaac Souede.
Mullins explained: “He had a very busy season in France last year and was bought as a novice chaser for next season, but it’s a long time to wait.
“I was happy to run him somewhere, but I’m not going to run him in the Stayers’, so we said ‘let’s run in the Champion and have a go’, rather than do nothing the whole spring.
“I think he’s rated 167, so that puts him in with a shot. It will be a true-run race – as it always is.”