Johnson White at a loss to explain Thyme Hill's Cheltenham Festival disappointment

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The nine-year-old, who had finished runner-up to Flooring Porter in last season's Stayers' Hurdle, went into the Grade One chase on the back of victory in the Kauto Star Novices' Chase at Kempton Park on Boxing Day. Having his first run since, the Philip Hobbs and White-trained gelding finished a laboured eighth to The Real Whacker, coming home under Micheal Nolan some 35 lengths behind the winner in the extended three-mile contest. "He was disappointing," admitted White. "He jumped a little bit slowly and at Cheltenham that obviously puts you on the back foot between the fences. "It just never really panned out for him. We scoped him afterwards and there was a little bit of muck there, but probably not enough to suggest that was any excuse for his below-par performance." The Mildmay Novices' Chase at Aintree opens day two of the Aintree Grand National Festival and has been pencilled in for Thyme Hill's next run. However, he must show he has overcome his exertions before representing the Somerset yard at the Liverpool track. "He has come back and seems in great form and looks well," added White. "He just didn't travel and jump as you need to to win races at Cheltenham. "Hopefully we can move on and get him back on a winning thread. "It's early days to make plans, but we will have a look at Aintree and see. Most importantly it is to ensure he's OK. "He's back cantering and seems well, and a decision will be made within the next week or 10 days, but that is certainly the plan at the moment. We will discuss it with his owners and see how his well-being is and go from there."

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