Having completed a hat-trick at Prestbury Park when narrowly outpointing Gerri Colombe in the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase at the Festival in March, the seven-year-old returned to the Cotswolds for the Paddy Power Gold Cup and was among the leading fancies, despite carrying top-weight of 12st.
But after matching strides with the eventual winner Stage Star for much of the two-and-a-half-mile-journey, The Real Whacker weakened out of contention before the home turn and was eventually pulled up by Sam Twiston-Davies, after which his injury was discovered.
“He got a dirty overreach – he’s OK, but he was a small bit lame after it,” said Neville, who trains out of Ann Duffield’s yard in Leyburn.
“Sam said he was travelling fierce well and then he realised something was amiss so he stopped and pulled up and looked after him.
“The vet checked him over yesterday morning, he’s fine and was on the water treadmill this morning, so we’ll roll on now for the King George.”
The Real Whacker is a 33-1 shot for Kempton’s Boxing Day highlight, but Neville is confident he can put his comeback run behind him and be back to his best for his festive outing. He added: “It could have been a lot worse, we knew something was amiss and Sam minded him.
“We’ve got a run into him now and we knew whatever happened he’d improve for the run. We’ve got that over and done with, so we’ll move on and get him ready for Christmas.
“He’ll be big price I’m sure, but I don’t mind.”
Multiple Grade One winner Thyme Hill has died after suffering a fatal injury on the gallops.
The nine-year-old won three times at the highest level for Philip Hobbs – landing the 2019 Challow Hurdle, the 2021 Aintree Hurdle and the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton last Christmas.
Having finished fourth on his seasonal reappearance at in the bet365 Hurdle at Wetherby earlier this month, Thyme Hill was being readied for the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury on Friday week – a race in which he beat Paisley Park three years ago – but his connections are now mourning the loss of a stable stalwart.
Johnson White, who joined Hobbs on the training licence earlier this year, said: “It’s very sad for the whole yard. He’s been phenomenal for some lovely owners and has taken them on a fantastic journey. We’ve been very lucky to have him.
“His run at Wetherby was OK the other day and he would have gone to Newbury on December 1. He was just doing a routine piece of work this morning and what happened happened, sadly.
“I feel very sorry for the whole yard as he’s been our flagbearer for a number of years now. Hopefully we have some nice young horses to reach his heights, but they take some replacing.”