Leading Arkle Trophy contender Fago saw his Cheltenham Festival aspirations dealt a huge blow as he suffered a comprehensive defeat in the Kilbrittain Castle Novices' Chase at Sandown.
An impressive winner on his British debut and first start for Paul Nicholls at Newbury in mid-January, the five-year-old then fell at the second-last when looking the likely winner of the Kingmaker Novices' Chase at Warwick.
Sent off the 2-5 favourite, he was settled last of three by Ruby Walsh and appeared to be moving into contention nicely jumping the Railway fences, but could not bridge the gap when Tony McCoy kicked for home on 7-2 shot Kapga De Cerisy, who scored by 15 lengths despite making a mess of the final fence.
Winning trainer Venetia Williams said: "I put him in everything at Cheltenham and he'll go for one of the handicaps. Hopefully the proximity of the third horse means the handicapper won't overreact. I was worried the ground was different to how it has been for much of the season, but it didn't seem to matter."
Walsh said of Fago: "He rode like a horse who was coming off the end of a long season. He had a long year in France", while Nicholls later confirmed via twitter: "Fago will miss Cheltenham and we will try and get back to best for Aintree."
McCoy had earlier helped David Pipe's Shotavodka (4-7 favourite) to a facile success in the Chris Bakers' 40th Birthday 'National Hunt' Novices' Hurdle.
Olympian Boy (7-1) was given a ride as icy-cool as the Surrey weather by Paul Moloney in the John Ratcliffe Retirement Handicap Chase.
Christian Leech, part-owner and assistant trainer to his wife Sophie, said: "He has won four times for us now and ran very well here last time behind Shangani, who has franked the form since. He is nine, but could be able to cope with a slight step up in grade and he might come back here on March 9."
Thundering Home (7-1) did exactly that when coming from a mile off the pace in the February Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle, with Goring One (16-1) also finishing strongly under a power-packed Andrew Thornton to take the Eric's Charm Handicap Chase for trainer Anna Newton-Smith.
Jamie Moore and Be All Man (7-2) pipped McCoy and 3-1 favourite Leader Of The Gang in the David Lindon & Co Handicap Hurdle. The jockey's father, trainer Gary Moore, said with a smile: "He says he would have won on either horse!"
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