Best Mate’s regular jockey Jim Culloty is expected to be out of action until Christmas after breaking a bone in his thumb earlier this week. This means the top steeplechaser will need a new partner for his first outing of the season.

Culloty was riding Only Vintage in the williamhill.co.uk “National Hunt” Novices’ Hurdle at Exeter on Tuesday when he took a nasty looking fall at the fourth flight. The bone in his right hand was already damaged when he was trodden on by another runner.

Culloty was taken to Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital where he had a plate inserted into his hand. He is expected to be unable to ride for the next few weeks and looks set to miss Best Mate’s first run of the season.

Best Mate’s trainer Henrietta Knight was planning for the star of her stable to run in the William Hill Chase at Exeter on 19 November. However, this will depend on the ground.

Culloty’s agent Chris Broad said: “He’s going to be out for a few weeks. It’s a very big blow. The main thing now is to get him back fit for the big Christmas meetings.”

The only other jockey to have raced Best Mate is Tony McCoy. The partnership was second in the 2001 King George VI Chase and won the same race the following year. McCoy is expected to top the list of preferred jockeys to ride the champion in Culloty’s absence.