Nicky Henderson, the trainer of Altior, said on Monday that the former two-mile champion chaser returned an unsatisfactory scope after his three-and-a-half length defeat by Nube Negra in the Grade Two Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton Park on Sunday.
Altior was nudged along from an early stage to stay in touch with the pace and came under pressure a long way from home on the way to only his second defeat in 22 starts over jumps. Henderson reported immediately afterwards that a scope two days before the race had been “as clean as a whistle” but evidence of an possible underlying infection now appears to have emerged a few hours later.
“We had him scoped [after the race],” Henderson told Nick Luck’s Daily Podcast. “We can’t scope him again today because it’s a Bank Holiday and the laboratory is shut, but we have reason to continue investigating that.
“There was evidence [of a poor scope]. I spoke to Simon Knapp [the stable’s vet] last night, he confirmed there was, and we need to do a tracheal wash, which then goes to the laboratory. I wouldn’t be surprised if we find there is something amiss.
“It’s definitely not normal, because he was scoped on Christmas Eve and we know it was 100 per cent clean, but 48 hours is a long time in a horse’s life. It would be enough [to affect Altior’s performance], it would in Simon Knapp’s opinion anyway.”
Henderson added that “one or two horses” in his stable “aren’t quite right” at the moment and that the yard might “have a quiet time” over the next few days.
“The ground is desperate, and I know we’ve got Sandown at the weekend but when Sandown is heavy, it’s a completely different kind of heavy,” Henderson said.
Epatante, last season’s Champion Hurdle winner, also disappointed at Kempton over the weekend when she was beaten at 1-5 in the Christmas Hurdle. The possibility that she was in season, which can cause fillies and mares to run below form, is ‘being investigated” according to her trainer.
“I don’t think it’s the same [issue as with Altior],” Henderson said. “I think something else will come up there, and I’ve got ideas. That wasn’t her, and we know it wasn’t her.
“I’d be surprised if Epatante ran again before Cheltenham – she didn’t last year, and I see no reason to run her again. I’m perfectly happy with both these horses that I’ve got good grounds for thinking there are reasons behind this – and with a bit of luck and a following wind, we can get them back into action.”
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