On a day of notable Cheltenham exclusions, the Festival's leading owner - JP McManus, has taken three of his leading handicap fancies out of his battalion heading to Prestbury Park next week, due to the belief they are unfairly handicapped in comparison to others.
Ivanovich Gorbatov, Jezki – both Grade One winners from the Festivals of old, have joined De Name Escapes Me in deciding to not head for the pinnacle of jump's racing.
Aside from the big guns such as Buveur D'Air, Fakir D'oudairies, Sir Erec and Defi Du Seuil, the news is certainly a blow for McManus contesting the major handicaps; all three of those withdrawn had been prominent in several markets throughout the week.
The decision though did not come via any negative injury updates nor due to prioritising other targets for the horses, but merely due to the fact that their handicap marks are deemed 'jokes' by the owner, and are thus badly treated.
Ivanovich Gorbatov, winner of the 2016 Triumph Hurdle was priced no bigger than 16/1 for the County Hurdle, but was handed a rating of 145 by the British handicappers when the weights were released last Wednesday - which was 8lbs superior to his Irish mark.
His trainer - Joseph O'Brien said: “It has been decided not to send him to Cheltenham because he's badly treated in relation to the other Irish horses.
De Name Escapes Me - trained by Noel Meade, and entered for the Close Brothers' Novices' Chase, Kim Muir and Coral Cup, will sadly not be making the journey either.
The 9yo chestnut was raised 7lb from his Irish mark to a rating of 150 in Britain over hurdles and 139 over fences, with Meade confirming: “We decided there was little point in running him as he's badly off with the other Irish entries.”
Jezki meanwhile, the winner of the Champion Hurdle in 2014 for a different yard, will skip his dates in the Coral Cup or County Hurdle, after also being raised 7lb higher than in his Irish rating, on what would have been his sixth Festival appearance.
The veteran proved he still had the ability in his ranks when second at Leopardstown in a Grade B Handicap, a year since his last track victory.
McManus can still be backed at 1/2 to be the top owner at the 2019 Cheltenham Festival, where his 54 winners tally to twice the amount as the next current leading owner, Gigginstown House Stud, who have 26.
Gigginstown - who are 13/8 to have most winners at the festival, have several leading hopefuls including the likes of Apples Jade, Delta Work, Battleoverdoyen and Tiger Roll.