CHELTENHAM Gold Cup favourite Thistlecrack will miss the remainder of the campaign after suffering a tendon injury.

The dominant force in the staying hurdle division last season, the Colin Tizzard-trained nine-year-old won his first four starts over fences, including a victory in the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day.

Despite suffering a narrow defeat at the hands of the ill-fated Many Clouds in the Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham at the end of January, he remained at the head of the betting for the blue riband on March 17, but he will not line up at Prestbury Park next month.

The Milborne Port handler told Press Association Sport yesterday: “Thistlecrack is out for the season, unfortunately.

“He had a bit of heat in his leg last night and was a bit sore. We had the leg scanned this morning and he has a slight tear on his tendon. We’ve seen it at every yard and it happens every year.”

John Snook owns Thistlecrack, along with his wife Heather and admitted it came as a bitter blow when he received the phone call all owners dread.

Snook said: “It’s very disappointing, but it’s one of those things that happens with horses. We’ve got to stop and that’s that.

"They just found a little bit of heat in his leg and it might be that he feels better in a week or two, but you’d be risking everything if you carried on. We all get our fair share of bad luck. We’ve seen it happen to Willie Mullins with the likes of Annie Power and Faugheen, and of course Oliver Sherwood after what happened to Many Clouds.

“Whether it’s JP McManus, Rich Ricci or ourselves, we all want to get our horses to the Festival and when something like this happens it knocks the stuffing out of you, but there’s nothing we can do about it. Hopefully we still have a horse. We’ve got to stop and we’ll find out where we are in about eight months’ time.”

Despite the shock news, Tizzard still has a formidable hand for the Festival showpiece.

Paddy Power make Thistlecrack’s Welsh Grand National-winning stable companion Native River the new 5-2 favourite, just ahead of Cue Card at 3-1.

Thistlecrack joins a high profile list of casualties from this year’s Cheltenham Festival which includes Faugheen, Annie Power, Min, Don Cossack, Coneygree, Sprinter Sacre, Valseur Lido and Ar Mad.