A reason for what looked a below-par performance by Puffin Billy at Exeter on Sunday appears to have been revealed, with the smart novice hurdler found to have pus in one of his feet.
Unbeaten and impressive in four starts prior to a Listed event at the Devon course, Oliver Sherwood's gelding, who is half-brother to the smart Willie Mullins trained mare Zuzka, was sent off the odds-on favourite but proved no match for Melodic Rendezvous and was beaten by nine lengths.
Found to be lame by the Exeter vets, Puffin Billy has entries in the William Hill Supreme and Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdles at Cheltenham.
Sherwood said: "My farrier dug out a whole load of pus from one of his feet (on Monday morning).
"What with the wet weather, it's like getting a blister and he'll have two or three quiet days having it poulticed.
"Hopefully he'll be able to be ridden towards the end of the week.
"I don't like to have sour grapes, and take nothing away from Melodic Rendezvous, but at least we have some sort of reason for his run."
Sherwood is not sure whether one of his other Cheltenham prospects, Mischievous Milly, will contest Friday's Jane Seymour Mares' Novices' Hurdle at Sandown.
She beat last weekend's Warwick Grade Two winner Ma Filleule on her most recent run at Taunton.
"I'm loathe to run her on desperate ground over two and a half miles, so I'm not sure I will have made a decision until Thursday morning," Sherwood said.
"I don't want to bottom her out."