Let f1,…,fg∈ℂ(z) be rational functions, let Φ=(f1,…,fg) denote their coordinate-wise action on (ℙ1)g, let V ⊂(ℙ1)g be a proper subvariety, and let P be a point in (ℙ1)g(ℂ). We show that if 𝒮={n≥0:Φn(P)∈V (ℂ)} does not contain any infinite arithmetic progressions, then 𝒮 must be a very sparse set of integers. In particular, for any k and any sufficiently large N, the number of n≤N such that Φn(P)∈V (ℂ) is less than log kN, where log k denotes the kth iterate of the log function. This result can be interpreted as an analogue of the gap principle of Davenport–Roth and Mumford.