Richards forced to rule Duke out

Duke Of Navan will not run again this season after suffering a nasty injury in last Thursday's Morebattle Hurdle at Kelso.

The six-year-old was chasing a second successive victory in one of the Borders track's flagship events and was sent off favourite, despite having failed to make an impact in the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle or the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton.

Nicky Richards' charge travelled well for a long way, but began to back-pedal from three out and was well beaten when he fell at the final fence.

Richards said: "He's injured and he won't run again this season, unfortunately.

"He struck into himself quite badly. He's given himself a very deep cut and it's a good job he was wearing racing boots as I think he'd have gone right through his tendon otherwise.

"We had him scanned and it looks as though the tendon is just bruised, so the vets think a bit of time will clear things up.

"He'll be checked again in about five weeks and if everything is all right we'll put him out to grass for the summer.

"We'll probably bring him back in early and get him over a fence on a bit of good ground.

"It's a shame the season has ended for him on a bit of a sad note, but hopefully he'll be back all guns blazing next season."

The Greystoke handler's other stable star, Eduard, is likely to reappear within the next month, but that is unlikely to be at the Cheltenham Festival.

The six-year-old, not seen since winning over fences at the second time of asking at Carlisle in early December, holds an entry in the JLT Novices' Chase at Cheltenham, but Richards is keen to keep things low-key for the time being.

"We've taken him out of the Arkle and I would say it's unlikely he'll go to Cheltenham," said the trainer.

"I don't want to run him on soft or heavy ground, which is why he hasn't been out for a while.

"He sprawled on landing on his first run over fences and we've just had one or two little niggly problems with him since. Even though he won at Carlisle last time, Brian (Harding, jockey) said he didn't feel great.

"I don't think he moves well on that softer ground, so we'll wait until the ground dries up and then get him out again.

"God willing, if the weather is good to us, I think we'll go to Ayr with him on March 7. That's what we're thinking at the moment.

"After that he could go to Aintree or back to Ayr for the Future Champions (Novices' Chase) at the Scottish National meeting.

"He's still a baby and I don't think we'll see the best of him until he's eight or nine."