Ante-post favourite Riders Onthe Storm will miss Saturday’s Caspian Caviar Gold Cup after being declared a non-runner in error.
Formerly trained in Ireland by Gold Cup-winning handler Tom Taaffe, the six-year-old made a successful debut for Nigel Twiston-Davies in a valuable event at Aintree last month.
Despite a 13lb hike in the weights, the Scorpion gelding was the clear market leader to follow up at Cheltenham, but Weatherbys confirmed him a non-runner just after 9am on Friday morning, with an infection put forward as the reason for the withdrawal.
However, Twiston-Davies later revealed he had been mistakenly declared a non-runner, and while the yard attempted to contact the relevant authorities to rectify the error, he could not be reinstated.
Explaining the sequence of events that led to the mistake, the Naunton handler said: “It was one of those things and mistakes happen.
“In the wind, I was ringing up my secretary and said, ‘can you take out Rocco’ (due to run at Bangor on Friday), but she misheard and took out Riders Onthe Storm. We knew straight away and we rang the BHA and they said there is nothing they could do.
“There should be a bit more flexibility. Mistakes shouldn’t happen, but they do – she (secretary) just pressed the wrong button. She was in floods of tears and I don’t think she will recover for a long time.
“The horse is fine and will go to Ascot next week for a £50,000 race. The owners have taken it brilliantly. You do need an understanding owner, but screaming and shouting isn’t going to make it any better.”
The British Horseracing Authority said in a statement: “Once a horse is declared a non-runner a notification is immediately published on the BHA website and the racing admin site, and distributed to numerous data feeds including the betting markets.
“Reversing a non-runner after it has been notified can lead to significant confusion and this is why it is written into the rules of racing that a non-runner declaration cannot be withdrawn.”
Several bookmakers announced they would void all bets on Riders Onthe Storm including Paddy Power, Unibet and Coral.