Nicky Henderson has been dealt a hammer blow with the news Binocular will miss Tuesday’s Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham.
Binocular, who was the pre post favourite until just hours before Sunday’s declaration time, underwent treatment for an allergy over the past couple of weeks.
After an elective test confirmed the medication was still in his system, the trainer was forced to withdraw him from the big race.
“We have very regretfully had to decide not to declare Binocular for Tuesday’s Champion Hurdle,” Henderson said.
“He had an allergy two weeks ago that did not respond to initial medication and on veterinary advice and well within normal parameters he required a further treatment the following day.
“As we were getting close to the most important race of the year and also because since that administration to Binocular, another horse had tested positive for the same substance, I thought it prudent to take a precautionary test which not only surprisingly, let alone devastatingly, has also shown to be positive.
“We have therefore reluctantly had to take the BHA’s advice that the only reasonable course in everybody’s interest is not to confirm the entry and he has consequently been withdrawn from the Champion Hurdle.”
Menorah and Hurricane Fly are now vying for favouritism with the field reduced to 11.
Henderson will still have a runner in the shape of Welsh Champion Hurdle winner Oscar Whisky, while Alan King’s Salden Licht was the only other defector at the 48-hour final declaration stage, leaving a field of 11.
Ruby Walsh teams up with Hurricane Fly, the main Irish hope, as both rider and trainer Willie Mullins seek their first success in the race.
Making a belated first appearance at the Festival, Hurricane Fly has already won seven Grade Ones, the latest coming in the Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown in January. Mullins also saddles Thousand Stars, winner of the County Hurdle last year.
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