Al Ferof sidesteps Gold Run

Al Ferof is poised to take his chance in the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham next month after he was scratched from the Gold Cup by Paul Nicholls.

The nine-year-old was beaten 25 lengths into second by Harry Topper in the Denman Chase at Newbury last Saturday, a race that was just his second try over three miles.

He had previously finished third in the King George VI Chase over that trip at Kempton and was having to tackle heavy ground at the weekend, with officials dolling off a couple of fences due to the very testing conditions.

Much talk surrounded the two-mile-five-furlong Ryanair in terms of stamina rather than the Gold Cup afterwards, although owner John Hales had spoken of wanting to keep his options open.

Those options are now down to two, with the two-mile Queen Mother Champion Chase still a possibility should the ground come up testing.

Nicholls said: "I took him out of the Gold Cup and the Ryanair looks made for him, although there's the option of the Champion Chase if it's very soft."