Altior has been ruled out of the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase at the 11th hour for a second successive year.
Nicky Henderson’s 11-year-old, who has won the race twice previously as well as the Arkle and the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, coughed after exercise on Monday.
The veteran has made it to the track just twice since November 2019, when he met with his first defeat over obstacles at the hands of Cyrname.
Altior was forced to miss last year’s Queen Mother with a splint, which emerged the weekend before the race.
Henderson released the news via a statement on Twitter, which read: “We are very sorry that we have taken the decision not to run Altior in the Champion Chase on Wednesday.
“He coughed after exercise this morning, which caused us to scope him, and as a result of what we have seen it would not be sensible to run him.”
Elaborating on what had occurred at Seven Barrows on Monday morning, Henderson said: “It’s desperate news, you wouldn’t believe it could happen two years running.
“His work and everything last week was fantastic – he schooled like he always does. His work on Friday was as good as I’ve seen, and there’s no doubt the cheekpieces we’d put on him had done the trick – they’d really sharpened him up.
“It was just routine this morning. His work was all done, (so) two routine canters this morning and then he would have had a blow the day before. But he coughed coming in.
“We always scope them on a Monday morning anyway, so the vets were here. We thought we’d better scope him, and you could see it. It’s unreal – we’re absolutely devastated for the Pughs (owners).
“I can honestly say this horse was back, and I was looking forward to him as much as any horse. I was so confident that he was himself – and then this happens. You couldn’t run him – it wouldn’t be fair to anyone, because it would only end in tears.”
Henderson was given Altior’s results just after 10am.
He added: “From what we were seeing on the scope, you couldn’t have run him – but once the sample was taken to the lab, you could see in the results that he has an infection. We can see what’s wrong now.
“It’s unbelievable to hit it now. We’ve had a few things going on through the winter like this, but luckily the last three weeks have been really good. This is the one horse who hasn’t had anything wrong with him – and he goes and gets it now.
“On Friday we did the last bits of work – they’d schooled on Thursday, and I could not have been happier with the whole lot. He was 100 per cent last week, but he’s not now. The results show what the scope indicated. It was too significant to run, just off the scope, but the figures have confirmed it.
“It appears we are dealing with bacterial infection rather than a viral infection.
“It’s cruel on everybody. There certainly wasn’t anything wrong with him on Friday, so it’s a recent thing. For it to happen two years running is cruel for the owners.
“We might get him back for something this season yet.”