Ferny Hollow has met with a new injury setback and is once again on the sidelines.

Trained by Willie Mullins and winner of the Champion Bumper back in 2020, the hugely-talented nine-year-old returned from a 791-day absence to take the Newlands Chase at Naas last month, on just his fourth start since that Cheltenham Festival victory.

Speaking at Navan on Saturday, Mullins said: “He picked up another injury and he’s going to miss Aintree and Punchestown, I think.

“You might see him in the Galway Plate or something, I’ll have to find somewhere to run him.

“I think he’s going to be out for six to eight weeks. It’s a completely new injury.

“He’s just one of those individuals that gives his all and hurts himself when he does.

“It’s unfortunate but I think we’ll have him back for the summer, we could maybe head to France with him or something like that.”

Ferny Hollow made a triumphant return from over two years on the sidelines with a dominant display in the Newlands Chase at Naas – but appears unlikely to be seen in action at next month’s Cheltenham Festival.

It is fast approaching four years since the Willie Mullins-trained nine-year-old carried the Cheveley Park Stud colours to success in the Champion Bumper at the showpiece meeting in the Cotswolds and injuries had restricted him to just three subsequent appearances.

He made a winning hurdling debut at Gowran Park the following season, but was then off the track for over a year, and while he made a smooth transition to jumping fences following his comeback with successive wins, including a Grade One at Leopardstown in December 2021, he had not been seen since.

Despite his 791-day absence, Ferny Hollow was a 2-5 favourite for this Grade Three assignment, and in truth odds-on backers will have had few concerns for the duration of the two-mile contest.

Paul Townend’s mount raced exuberantly and jumped neatly in the main and moved ominously into the wing mirrors of the three horses in front of him from the home turn.

Once angled out into clear daylight, the Westerner gelding soon swept to the lead and only had to be pushed out after safely negotiating the final obstacle to seal a comfortable five-and-a-half-length verdict.

Mullins said: “I was happy with him to do that after such a long lay-off. Hopefully, now he stays sound so that we can keep him that way.

“He popped over a few hurdles and a few fences yesterday morning and I was happy with him. The conditions of this race suited him a bit better than last week (Red Mills Chase at Gowran Park).

“I think he’s still young enough to put in a career best over fences. He just has to overcome this first run and come back sound and we’ll see where we go.”

Coral cut Ferny Hollow to 8-1 from 12-1 in their non-runner money back market for the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham, but with that race only 17 days away, Mullins is set to keep his powder dry for the other major festivals in the spring.

“He’s entered in Cheltenham. It may be a big ask on his second run, but we’ll have a look. It may come a bit soon,” he added.

“He settled lovely and even though he’s free going, once you settle him in, he listens and responds to you. We were happy to use those tactics and hoped that if he got around safe and sound that he’d be the fastest horse in the straight, which he was.

“It will be all about how he comes out of the race in the next week, and we’ll probably look for easier options for the time being.”

Ferny Hollow is due to make a belated return to action in the Newlands Chase at Naas on Sunday.

The Cheveley Park Stud-owned nine-year-old looked at one stage to have the world at his feet when winning the 2020 Champion Bumper and then his maiden hurdle start ahead of Bob Olinger.

Injury interrupted his career after that and he returned in December 2021 to skip straight to chasing, winning both starts over fences including the Grade One Racing Post Novice Chase at Leopardstown.

He then met with a further setback and has not been seen since, with trainer Willie Mullins intending to run him in the Red Mills Chase at Gowran last weekend but eventually deciding against it.

Now his long-awaited comeback will come at Naas at the weekend, where he is booked to run in the Grade Three Newlands some 791 days after his last start.

“He’s entered at Naas on Sunday and hopefully he’ll run,” said Mullins, whose charge holds a Queen Mother Champion Chase engagement.

“He was ready to run last weekend in the Red Mills Chase at Gowran, but we had Saint Sam for that and he also gets in here without a penalty which is nice.

“He seems in good form so hopefully he can stay right. We’re very happy with him.”

Paul Townend’s mount will face five rivals, including Ash Tree Meadow (Gordon Elliott) and Espanito Bello (Barry Connell).

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